Popular Pueblo restaurant reopens Henri’s
Henri's, a Mexican-food institution in Old Colorado City for at least 60 years, will be reopening soon with a new owner.
Jorge Ayala, founder and owner of Jorge's Restaurant in Pueblo, is looking forward to bringing his “Southern Colorado Mexican food” to the 105-seat location at 2427 W. Colorado Ave., he said in an interview this week.
Other than a carry-out location that he added in the early '90s, this will be the first time Ayala has expanded the Jorge's Restaurant name since he originated the eatery in 1983.
One of the reasons for taking the plunge was “having a lot of loyal customers from Colorado Springs” and wanting to see how well his cuisine might do if situated here, he said.
Another reason, as he explained it, was more personal - a sense that his Pueblo success had given him more free time than he really wanted. The timing was also good because of his son moving on from high school. As a result, he was ready “when this came up,” the 53-year-old entrepreneur said. “I really feel positive about this move.”
Jim Heikes, president of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group, said he is glad to see Ayala coming to town. “It's really exciting,” he said. “Their restaurant in Pueblo has excellent food. I'm hoping they do well.”
The business there is slightly larger, with 110 indoor seats and another 50 in an outdoor patio.
Ayala said he will use the same cooking philosophy he's used in Pueblo. Keys include fresh, top-quality ingredients, with nearly everything made on site, including some of the tortillas. “Mostly I use original recipes from my family,” he said. “But I have great cooks, and I try to keep an open mind. If they have a better recipe, we'll use it.”
Some of the house specialties will be chili - a Pueblo tradition, according to Ayala - deep-fried tacos, shrimp tacos, chile rellenos, chicken tacos on house-made white flour tortillas, and huevos rancheros.
For at least the first year, the business will go by the name of “Henri's by Jorge's,” he said, with the time-honored “The General” painting by the rear door staying in view. But after about a year, when Ayala plans on a major renovation, he expects that the name will become simply “Jorge's.”
The interior will display bright colors and Mexican decorations, plus plenty of soccer paraphernalia. The latter reflects Ayala's passion for the sport, having played for many years.
His purchase included the Henri's corporate name, liquor license and the two-story building, which has upstairs apartments.
Ayala becomes the third owner in Henri's history. Rudolfo Perez' family had bought the business from the original Henri's family in 2001, but closed it last winter in the midst of health misfortunes that included the deaths of Perez' daughter and, after a battle with cancer, himself.
Ayala had known Perez, an Air Force veteran. “He used to come down to my place,” he said.
Jennifer Davidson, a Jorge's employee from Pueblo, will be the general manager. The business will employ about 18 people at the outset, some of them part-time, Ayala said.
Henri's was started by the late Henri Ruiz, probably in the 1940s, according to Ayala and interviews with local historians Dave Hughes and Mel McFarland. The place was known for its tasty food - even attracting visiting celebrities such as Robert Mitchum, according to Hughes. In the 1950s, McFarland recalled, “Mexican food in Colorado Springs was pretty Americanized, Henri's was unique because they had traditional Mexican food.”
Westside Pioneer article