Hacienda de Vega, a popular Mexican restaurant inside a 1930s-era adobe home in Escondido, is adding a second location, this one in Carlsbad. The new restaurant will be in the heart of the Carlsbad Research Center, about a half-mile from Bressi Ranch, and is scheduled to be open by late October.
General Manager Alonso Vega-Albela and his family opened the Escondido Hacienda de Vega in 2003. “For Hacienda de Vega Carlsbad, I invited a small group of smart and hard-working young people to have an equity position along with myself and the sister company, HdV-E," said Vega-Albela. "They all started as part of my staff in Escondido and have risen through the ranks and to the challenge of now being also owners.”
In conjunction with the expansion, Diverse Culinary Ventures was set up as a corporate entity, separate from HdV-C. (Hacienda de Vega Carlsbad). “I like to keep things clean and uncomplicated, so creating a new corporate entity made a lot of sense with new partners,” Vega-Albela said.
Vega-Albela says the evolution of the original Escondido restaurant has been “quite the ride. We went through some tough times at the beginning, as many small businesses do, but we managed to come out on top. I think timing had a lot to do with it because we had the 2003 fires during the fall of our opening year, then the fires of ’07, then the crash of ’08.
“But I think that the proverbial ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ has been very true for us. We went through a re-org in 2013 and are now slimmer, meaner and more efficient as a company. What has never changed is our strong — almost stubborn — commitment to stay true to Mexican traditions: our food and our setting.”
Even during hard times, Vega-Albela said, the Escondido restaurant thrived on family tradition. “Our menu was developed by my mother, who was nicknamed ‘Mama Vega’ by our staff for both her nurturing ways and her matriarchal discipline. Her recipes come from old family recipes dating to my great-grandmother.”
The business model for the Carlsbad location is very similar, Vega-Albela said. “Family. Neighborhood. Although I feel our daytime business will be much stronger in Carlsbad simply because of our proximity to other businesses.”
The menu, atmosphere and branding will be the same in Carlsbad as at Escondido. “However … our Escondido location is an outdoor haven with 100 percent al fresco dining, lush landscaping, gardens,” Vega-Albela said. “Carlsbad has been designed with this outdoor feel in mind, but will be a complete juxtaposition of the Escondido setting.”
Wanting to keep that a surprise, Vega-Albela offered no details.
Why Carlsbad for a second Hacienda de Vega?
“It is a beautiful community,” Vega-Albela said. “It’s close enough to home to manage both restaurants and far enough from our Escondido location that there is not much overlap in our customer base.”
Having the two restaurants in North County — east and west, if you will — is not only a business choice for Vega-Albela, but is also consistent with the emphasis he places on family.
“San Diego is probably the most beautiful place to live, and North County is our home,” he said. “I feel it is very important for people to invest in their own backyard. There, you have a vested interest, you understand the needs of the community and can be a part of it.
“We are still a very young company, and there is much growth to be done, but starting close to home allows you to be present every day in your business and have a family life.”