As the name might suggest, Napa’s new Fresh A-Mex has a dedication to fresh foods made to order.
“This is not greasy Mexican food,” said owner operator Francisco Putzeys. “Ours is very healthy food like that you might prepare at home for yourself. Although it costs more, we buy only fresh pork and chicken and all of our beef is certified Angus steak. We trim all of the meats ourselves.”
Putzeys had retired in 2006 after 40 years in the restaurant business, but “When you have it in your blood it’s really hard to give up,” he said.
After being involved with 22 restaurants in San Francisco from diners to French-Italian style, Putzeys opened his first restaurant in 1991.
“I would say that was the beginning of Fresh A-Mex,” he said.
“That was in San Francisco and it was called Francisco’s Taqueria on Chestnut Street. I had that restaurant for seven years and then I opened two more changed the name to Francisco’s Mexican Food, because we did more things than just tacos and burritos like a taqueria.”
“After I came to Napa (in 2010) my brother was encouraging me to open a restaurant, so we worked out a lease on this place and here I am,” Putzeys said. “I don’t want people to think of as a fast-food restaurant. Because when you cook something fresh to order I think that takes you to another level,” he added.
Putzeys emphasized that because everything is cooked to order, you get your food exactly the way you want it at Fresh A-Mex. “You tell me you don’t want any salt on your food,” he said, “then I don’t put any salt in it. That gives my customers a lot of flexibility and that makes us different than other Mexican places.”
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One of the reasons for the name Fresh A-Mex, Putzeys says, is because it sounds a bit like a chain, which is what he has in mind down the road.
“I do have thoughts about other locations and that’s one of the reasons we call it Fresh A-Mex. Fresh A-Mex sounds almost like a chain. Now if I open another store it will be called Fresh A-Mex. I’m getting some interest from people who want to open a franchise but I tell them I am not ready yet. I’m still getting the kinks out.”
A loyal and regular clientele is what it’s all about. So far, so good, said Putzeys. “Sometimes people come in here for lunch and we have lines and they want their food in 5-6 minutes and it’s a little bit difficult. I’m able to do that because we have a very good system,” he said. “A lot of regulars coming in and all I have to say is ‘You want your usual?’ and that makes things pretty quick.”
Fresh A-Mex has new customers coming in daily “and making them feel welcome and that they got good food at a good prices is what keeps them,” Putzeys said. “The friendliness of myself, my wife, Rina, and my cashiers; this is something that we keep emphasizing.”
Putzeys also believes in bringing new things to the menu from time to time. Pupusas, which originate in his home country of El Salvador, is one of them that may also lead to the addition of beer and wine. “Pupasas are like pizza; you have to have a beer with them,” he chuckled.
Another new item will be homemade chile rellenos made with tuna. Putzeys said those will be made by a Mexican woman who specializes in that recipe.
Fresh A-Mex offers customers delivery through Grub Hub, Door Dash and Uber Eats.
“The restaurant business has always been difficult and many fold within a year,” Putzeys said. “But every single one that I’ve been involved with has been successful from Day 1.”
Putzeys enjoys his work. “We’re trying to make a go of it and it’s a pleasure,” he said. “I really appreciate the people who come back to us.”
Fresh A-Mex is located at 641 Trancas St. in Napa and is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The store is closed on Sundays. You can visit them on the web at freshamex.com or call 707-637-4884.