De los Muertos SLC is a popular Mexican restaurant located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The restaurant first opened its doors in 2005 and has since become a local favorite for authentic Mexican cuisine. Many customers are curious about who exactly owns and operates this beloved establishment.
De los Muertos SLC is owned by the Reyes family. The owners are brothers Ricardo and Ernesto Reyes. The two brothers moved from Mexico to Utah in the 1990s in search of new opportunities. After working in various kitchens across the Salt Lake Valley, they decided to open their own restaurant featuring the dishes of their homeland. Their goal was to share authentic flavors of Mexico with the local community.
Background on the Reyes Family
Ricardo and Ernesto Reyes were born and raised in a small town near Mexico City, Mexico. Food and cooking were central parts of their upbringing. Their mother was an exceptional cook who prepared delicious meals for the family using fresh, local ingredients. From a young age, Ricardo and Ernesto were fascinated by the culinary creations their mother prepared and knew they wanted to follow in her footsteps.
As teenagers, Ricardo and Ernesto began working in a family friend’s restaurant. This experience taught them even more about Mexican cuisine and solidified their passion for the restaurant industry. When the brothers reached adulthood, they decided to immigrate to the United States in search of more opportunities to grow their careers. Ricardo and Ernesto lived in Dallas and Los Angeles before settling down in Salt Lake City.
Early Restaurant Jobs in Utah
Upon arriving in Utah in the late 1990s, Ricardo and Ernesto took jobs working in various local restaurants. This allowed them to get a taste of the Utah food scene while saving up money to someday open their own establishment. Ricardo landed a position as a line cook at a popular Salt Lake City Tex-Mex restaurant. Meanwhile, Ernesto got a job as a server and food runner at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Salt Lake.
Though they gained valuable experience, the brothers were disappointed with the inauthentic Mexican dishes being served at these establishments. They knew they could provide something better if given the chance. After over five years of working for other restaurants, Ricardo and Ernesto felt they were finally ready to branch out on their own.
Opening De los Muertos SLC
In 2005, after years of careful planning and saving, Ricardo and Ernesto opened De los Muertos SLC in downtown Salt Lake City. The name “De los Muertos” means “of the dead” in Spanish and is a reference to the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This holiday celebrates deceased loved ones with food, drink, and activities.
The brothers poured their hearts and souls into the new restaurant. Their goal was to transport guests to Mexico through authentic dishes, decor, and hospitality. Some signature menu items included pozole, tacos al pastor, mole poblano, and fresh tableside guacamole. They also offered an extensive selection of Mexican beers, wines, and spirits.
Dedication to Quality Ingredients
From the beginning, Ricardo and Ernesto made it a priority to source high quality ingredients for their recipes. They established relationships with local suppliers to obtain fresh produce, meat, and dairy. Many herbs and spices were imported directly from Mexico to preserve authenticity. No shortcuts were taken in the kitchen.
The brothers also standardized all recipes and techniques to ensure consistency. Extensive employee training was required before anyone could work in the restaurant. Ricardo and Ernesto were very hands-on, frequently stepping into the kitchen themselves.
Warm and Inviting Atmosphere
Ricardo and Ernesto designed the interior of De los Muertos SLC to resemble an authentic Mexican cantina. The color palette included warm reds, oranges, and yellows. Intricate ceramic tiles adorned the walls alongside colorful Día de los Muertos artwork. Wrought iron lanterns and candles on each table created a cozy ambience.
The friendly and attentive staff contributed to the welcoming environment. Many employees were native Spanish speakers who could explain menu items and take orders in both English and Spanish. The brothers also hired mariachi bands on weekends to serenade guests during their meals.
Expansion Over the Years
De los Muertos SLC quickly developed a loyal customer base who kept returning for the top-notch food and hospitality. Business was booming, and demand was exceeding capacity. In 2010, after being open for five successful years, Ricardo and Ernesto decided it was time to expand.
They found a larger building a few blocks away from the original restaurant. The new location could seat over 100 guests and allowed for expanded parking. This was essential to accommodate all the customers pouring in each day.
With the larger space, Ricardo and Ernesto also expanded the menu. They added dishes like enchiladas suizas, chile rellenos, and camarones al mojo de ajo. Combination plates gave guests a chance to sample several items. Dessert offerings grew to include options like tres leches cake, churros, and flan.
Consistency During Expansion
As the restaurant grew over the years, Ricardo and Ernesto remained dedicated to consistency. They continued requiring extensive training for all kitchen and wait staff to meet their high standards. The brothers also kept a hands-on approach, frequently cooking specials and interacting with patrons.
Supplier relationships were maintained, and many ingredients continued being imported from Mexico. No shortcuts would be taken for the sake of efficiency or cost savings. Authenticity was paramount in all decisions.
Giving Back to the Community
Despite their immense success, Ricardo and Ernesto have stayed humble. They feel gratitude toward Salt Lake City for accepting them and supporting their business over the past two decades. The brothers give back to the local community whenever possible.
De los Muertos SLC donates food to homeless shelters and participates in various charity fundraisers. During the holidays, they provide free meals to less fortunate families. The restaurant also hosts free culinary classes for young aspiring chefs in the community.
Ricardo and Ernesto take particular joy in mentoring younger immigrants from Mexico. They provide guidance on navigating American culture while staying rooted in their heritage. The brothers never forget where they came from.
Supporting Local Businesses
In addition to charity work, De los Muertos SLC supports fellow local businesses. The restaurant partners with smaller-scale farms, dairies, breweries, and wineries across Utah for ingredients and beverages.
Ricardo and Ernesto are dedicated patrons of the downtown Salt Lake City arts scene. They frequently attend gallery openings, theaters productions, and live concerts.
The brothers also place value on sourcing sustainable ingredients through local suppliers. This allows them to reduce their environmental impact whenever possible.
Awards and Accolades
De los Muertos SLC has received various awards and accolades over the past 15+ years in business. Their reputation has spread far beyond Salt Lake City alone.
Some highlights include:
- Featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2012
- Named “Best Mexican Restaurant in Utah” by Salt Lake Magazine 8 years in a row
- Included in Travel + Leisure’s roundup of America’s best Mexican restaurants in 2018
- Won the prestigious James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southwest” in 2020
- Highlighted by celebrity chef Rick Bayless as one of his favorite Mexican restaurants in the U.S.
Ricardo and Ernesto have also been lauded for their commitment to philanthropy, sustainability, and community engagement.
The Future of De los Muertos SLC
With no signs of slowing down, De los Muertos SLC continues thriving under the leadership of owners Ricardo and Ernesto Reyes. The brothers have set an impressive standard with their authentic Mexican cuisine and gracious hospitality.
In the coming years, Ricardo and Ernesto plan to expand their business while staying rooted in their commitment to quality. Potential growth opportunities include opening additional locations across Utah, launching a food truck, bottling their signature sauces and salsas, or even franchising.
However, the brothers insist that any new endeavors will uphold the top-notch standards customers have come to expect from De los Muertos SLC. Their dishes will continue being prepared with immense pride and care.
Preserving a Meaningful Legacy
Above all, Ricardo and Ernesto wish to preserve the meaningful legacy they’ve built at De los Muertos SLC. They want their restaurant to remain a place where guests feel nourished by incredible food and genuine hospitality.
The brothers also hope to pass their knowledge and passion onto the next generation. They aim to set an inspiring example of how two immigrants can achieve their American dream through hard work and determination.
De los Muertos SLC holds a special spot in Salt Lake City’s culinary scene thanks to dedicated owners Ricardo and Ernesto Reyes. Their authentic dishes and welcoming atmosphere have drawn devoted crowds for over 15 years. Moving forward, the brothers strive to expand their beloved restaurant while staying true to the values and recipes that have made it a success.
Through their generous community engagement and commitment to quality, Ricardo and Ernesto have built an establishment that honors their Mexican heritage. De los Muertos SLC will surely continue its legacy of fabulous food and hospitality for years to come under the leadership of these passionate owners.