Patricia Schwabe was raised in Monterrey, Mexico and moved to the states to finish college in the early ‘90s. Schwabe, owner of both Tooley’s Café in the Lost Barrio and Peach Properties, Inc., opened a restaurant, Penca, Tuesday, March 5, 2013. The restaurant is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and offers authentic Mexican dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a full bar. Penca is located at 50 E. Broadway Blvd. For more information call 203-7681.
Where did the name Penca come from?
Penca is the rib of the agave and an agave for me is something that represents the Mexican farm and the Mexican, kind of, traditions. And we’re trying to do something very organic … rooted in the traditional Mexican culture. So for me the agave was a good thing to start with and then the Penca is the rib that comes out of the agave.
Why did you choose to open a restaurant?
I’ve had Tooley’s Café in the Lost Barrio since also the early ‘90s and my husband and I are also owners of Peach Properties and we’re involved downtown and when this space became available I just felt like there was a good opportunity to bring a different concept of Mexican food to downtown.
What do you do around the restaurant?
I just kind of try to keep an eye on everything. I help in the kitchen … I work very closely with the chef in creating the food and the recipes and I’m pretty involved with the front of the house making sure things run well. I’m probably very intimately involved with almost every area of the restaurant right now.
Has your previous experience helped prepare you to become a restaurant owner?
I hope so. I guess we’re going to discover right? As this restaurant takes off and finds its own identity. I’m hoping that experience and age and other things that we’ve done in our lives has given us some tools at least … to create this restaurant.
Have you noticed any significant differences between owning a restaurant and your previous experience?
This is just a little more involved because it’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve never had a place that served dinner. And … I’ve never had a bar before. I’ve never had a restaurant that had a bar so I did hire a couple very experienced bartenders and I have a very talented bar manager or beverage director that has really helped create the concept of the bar. So he has really been instrumental in setting the tone for the bar.
What do you hope people get out of their experience when they visit the restaurant?
Oh my gosh, I hope they can be transported to central Mexico with the food. And I hope they can enjoy the space, the décor, the food and just the fabulous international bar that we have.
Who inspired the menu items?
Probably just my upbringing with my mother cooking and aunts cooking. And just like a deep love for traditional Mexican food.
What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
I guess that’s like asking who’s your favorite child, right? I mean there’s something different and distinct of every dish. I like the fact that we have a good selection of vegetarian dishes … I’m very proud of that
If a tourist is visiting Tucson for the first time, and they come here and they ask for a recommendation, what would you recommend?
Well I don’t know because I usually ask people ‘are you a vegetarian?’ ‘Do you like spicy food?’ ‘Do you want to try something light?’ and then I go from there right? I think we have good options for different palettes and different
Anything else you’d like to add?
That we’re very happy to be downtown. We have great breakfast items too that I’m very proud of. In the morning, yes, probably my favorite in the morning are the chilaquiles … salda verde chilaquiles.