By Amanda Sciandra
After months of hard work, Julio’s Mexican Street Food has finally opened its doors. The restaurant was made possible by Dennis Canchola, who hoped to make his father Julio’s dream a reality after his previous venture closed.
“This restaurant started even before me,” said Dennis, “It started with my dad coming to the U.S. He had the cheesy American dream for me and my brother.”
Dennis was born in Mexico, and moved to Cape May with his family when he was just two years old. According to Dennis, his father immediately sought work and ended up finding a job at the Ebbitt Room in Cape May. It was there that Julio made his way from dish washer to line cook to sous-chef. Dennis pointed out that his father’s job did more than just bring money into their household.
“My dad learned how to cook for me and my brother,” said Dennis.
When Dennis was a kid, his father opened El Portal Restaurant in the Villas, which was a mostly takeout Mexican restaurant.
“I was probably around ten-years-old working the cash register and putting salsa in containers,” said Dennis. The restaurant was a hit, so much so that they relocated to a larger space in North Cape May and transitioned to full service.
Through the success of El Portal, Julio saved enough money to put Dennis and his older brother through college. After college, Dennis pursued an advertising career in New York. El Portal eventually closed its doors, but Dennis and his father were on the lookout for the perfect location to start a new restaurant.
“Years later, I saw this newly constructed building. It was shell that we could make into whatever we wanted,” said Dennis.
Thanks to his career in advertising, Dennis was able to help fund the restaurant, giving his father his perfect restaurant and even naming it after him.
Dennis described the menu as a soulful homage to Mexican street food. Dennis says the menu is also influenced by popular American staples. For example, his father Julio has become quite a fan of waffle fries, so he created their smash hit “Santa Fe Fries.”
While Dennis may have jokingly admitted that his father’s love language is cooking, Julio’s cooking truly does taste as though it came from the heart.
Next time you’re craving some delicious Mexican cuisine, head over to Julio’s Mexican Street Food, located at 210 N Main St, Court House.