Jael and Julio Garcia of Buendia Breakfast & Lunch Cafe (Photo by Erika Howlett)

How Julio & Jael Garcia of Buendia Bring Alegría to Tucson

March 7, 2024
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By Erika Howlett
By Erika Howlett

Between the salt and pepper on each table at Buendia Breakfast & Lunch Cafe, there’s a third shaker labeled alegría, or “joy” in Spanish. Each customer who comes by for housemade breakfast dishes, like their famous Stuffed Poblano Pepper, can add a bit of joy to their meal. 

For Julio and Jael Garcia, the owners of Buendia, this symbolizes their mission and the legacy they want to leave.

Buendia Breakfast & Lunch Cafe (Photo by Erika Howlett)

Buendia has been open for a little over two years. The couple, both 38 years old, is from Nogales, Sonora, and have four children. Julio is the front-of-house manager and Jael leads the kitchen. Besides delicious homemade food and drink, their main focus is creating a festive atmosphere and a happier community. 

Julio has been around restaurants for most of his life, but now he’s doing his own thing, a project with his wife, Jael, that’s been 15 years in the making. Their wish to bring home-cooked Mexican breakfast food to Tucson has created a colorful, vibrant Buendia located at 2530 N. First Ave.

It’s easy to feel at home with Julio and Jael at Buendia, who both make sure to thank every guest as they leave the restaurant. They’re even planning an upcoming expansion with a patio and a play area for kids, to welcome even more families. 

Keep scrolling to read my interview with Julio.

Me: How did Buendia get started? 

Julio: It was a project from more than 15 years ago. All the food we make here is made from scratch, home-cooking style. We wanted to show people what a Mexican home is. The main thing here, besides the food, is the alegría shaker. We want people to feel joyful every time they come. We want them to forget everything that is outside. 

You have to keep trying and trying. My sister and I started something three months before the pandemic hit. I gave myself just one more year of working in another restaurant, and then we were going to do our own. While we were in the house, we started to work on this project. We started to figure out all the food and then we started to figure out how we wanted to decorate the place. 

Me: When did you know you wanted to work in restaurants?

Julio: My family has had restaurants for more than 40 years. I grew up in a restaurant. It’s funny because when I was a kid, I said I never wanted to work in a restaurant because I was always there. I started in marketing and advertising for my career. But I realized I could apply that career to restaurants and that way you can connect with people. 

Buendia Breakfast & Lunch Cafe (Photo by Erika Howlett)

Me: So, why breakfast?

Julio: It’s one of the most important foods of the day. Here in Tucson, there are a lot of Mexican places with really good food, but people always focus on doing a restaurant with lunch and dinner. We wanted to focus on a different category, just focus on the Mexican breakfast. We thought of doing something like Prep & Pastry, where they have a nice ambiance, but in a Mexican style. Also, here, we’re very close to the University of Arizona, and a lot of people only like fast food or don’t have the time to make food from scratch, so we’re doing all the work for you. 

Me: What’s your favorite dish on the menu?

Julio: The most popular dish we have is the stuffed poblano. It’s our own creation. It’s something unique, so you won’t find it in any other place, yet. It’s two very popular things — tamales and chiles rellenos. So, one day we thought, what if we put it all together? My wife came up with the idea. 

Stuffed Poblano Pepper (Photo courtesy of Buendia)

Me: How is it working so closely with your family?

Julio: I used to work in other restaurants before here on late shifts, but now I have more time with my wife and with my kids. If one day I have a soccer tournament with my son, I’m able to go because I have somebody that covers my shift here. My youngest one, my daughter, she’s in kindergarten. When we opened, she wasn’t in school yet so she liked to bring the menus to the table. Every time she’s with us, she says she wants to come help.

Me: What’s it like to already be one of the most popular breakfast spots in Tucson?

Julio: We never imagined it was going to be this soon. It’s only been two years and we get very crowded. We’re very thankful for our community — all the joyful people that come. We have four kids, and we can leave them a better community — a better city — because people who come here will always be thinking about joy. 

Buendia Breakfast & Lunch Cafe is located at 2530 N. First Ave. For more information, follow Buendia on Facebook

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