Restaurant owner aims to make her children proud

Yolanda Rodarte just wanted to make her daughter proud, so she opened a restaurant.

Rodarte knew she wanted to own her own restaurant, and her daughter’s college graduation made her really consider her dreams, she said.

Her daughter, Karen Sanchez, graduated with a double major in public health and psychology as part of the University of Washington Class of 2020.

“I always thought that if my daughter can do that, why can’t I do my own business?” Rodarte said. “I wanted to do something that makes her proud. She makes me proud.”

“Rustic House,” which will soon be renamed, is a Mexican and American restaurant offering an array of classic American fare and homemade Mexican dishes. It opened about three weeks ago in the former Kasteel Franzen, a well-known Dutch castle-like building next to the Auld Holland Inn on State Highway 20 in Oak Harbor.

The interior was left largely the same because Rodarte was excited to open and didn’t want to delay. She never thought she would be opening in the well-known building, but when a family member told her he liked working with the owners, she decided to try her luck.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I go and ask? Maybe I’ll have a chance,’” Rodarte said. She showed them her menu and it was a done deal.

“They helped me a lot. Without them I wouldn’t be here.”

Rodarte and her husband worked for local restaurants for years before opening their own and learned about the industry along the way.

It was an opportunity to use her own ideas, and Rodarte said she liked the challenge. It is certainly not Oak Harbor’s first or only Mexican American restaurant, but Rodarte said it’s different from the ones she’s worked for in the past.

“I worked there and I knew their menu. I would have never opened a restaurant with the same things,” she said. “I wanted something different, something no one else had.”

Rodarte said her restaurant cooks its own pancakes, beans and rice, chile rellenos and other homemade favorites.

The Mexican menu boasts its own homemade mole and red enchilada sauces, along with homemade tortillas.

In addition to the Mexican offerings, the menu includes American favorites like country fried steak, patty melt and fish and chips made with Alaskan true cod.

Most burgers and sandwiches range from $11-$13, while entrees like veggie linguine or the seafood platter cost $15-$19. It also offers an extensive breakfast menu with six different Benedicts alone.

For now, Rodarte can be found in the kitchen ensuring everything tastes just right.

The transition from working in other people’s restaurants to finally working for herself has been a lot of work, but Rodarte said she welcomes the challenge.

“I wanted to open my own business because I wanted to have my ideas there,” she said.

“I want to teach my children it’s a lot of work and responsibility but they can do anything they want to.”

Rustic House Kitchen

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