Mexican restaurant is a true family affair

Osvaldo “Baldo” Carreon

CLINTON — The Carreons of Freeland have turned the concept of kin into a business plan that’s off to a rousing start at Ken’s Korner.

“We like to make our customers feel at home, like a family,” said Hilda Carreon, matriarch of a clan that has just opened

La Casita, a new restaurant featuring Mexican cuisine.

“La Casita” literally means “Little House” in Spanish, but the more exact interpretation would be something like “you’re home.”

The restaurant opened April 15. Three days later, in two rooms that seat a total of 138, there were 99 confirmed reservations made for the dinner hour.

And that’s before the family had obtained a liquor license, so no beer and no margaritas. The family hopes to secure a license soon.

“They say they are excited to have a Mexican restaurant,” Hilda Carreon said of her customers. “And we are excited to be on the island. People are very friendly, and they have been patient with us.”

La Casita is a true family affair. Father Osvaldo, also known as “Baldo,” is the chef; Hilda does some of the cooking and works the front of the house; son Edgar, 25, does a little bit of everything, as does his sister Yajaira, 17.

In fact, they all do almost all the jobs, at one time or another. The family also employs an additional staff of 14.

“We don’t take titles,” Edgar Carreon said. “We’re not like a government. We have respect within the family, but no positions. It helps us to stay grounded.”

His younger brother Manny, “the creative one,” designed the logo and does other marketing for the business, Carreon said.

La Casita features a full range of traditional Mexican dishes, as well as a few items that have evolved to cater to specific customer tastes at the family’s other restaurants.

There are appetizers, combinations, tostadas, enchiladas, burritos, Mexican favorites and house specialties. There are also seafood, chicken and vegetarian selections, child plates, egg dishes, side orders and desserts.

There’s even a selection of burgers.

Prices range from $4.95 for bean dip to $12.95 for house specialties.

Edgar Carreon said the most popular house special so far has been “Baldo’s Steak.” Baldo Carreon said his own favorite is the steak fajita burrito.

“About 85 percent of the menu is what we eat at home,” Edgar Carreon said.

Before coming to the United States, the family lived in Durango, Mexico, where Baldo Carreon was a dentist. He later owned a series of technical schools.

“He loves business,” his son said. “He likes being around people.”

The family moved to Conway in 1994 to be close to relatives who had emigrated earlier.

Baldo Carreon went to work in his relatives’ restaurant, and eventually became chef.

Edgar Carreon and his brothers started in the trade in their teens as busboys.

The family launched its Mount Vernon restaurant about eight years ago, which Edgar’s brother Carlos and Carlos’ wife currently manage. Another restaurant was started in Burlington, but has since closed.

The South Whidbey contingent of the family now lives in Freeland.

“Our family is very thankful to everyone who has given us support and opportunity in beginning this new family adventure,” Edgar Carreon said.

And despite the scarcity of dentists on the South End, Baldo Carreon says he has no plans to resume his former profession.

“I think he would rather retire,” Edgar Carreon said.