The miracle

THE MIRACLE — Pictured from left: Julio Vazquez, Marco Zamora and Alan Valverde. 

El Milagro incorporates family recipes, fresh food

Cloverdale’s historic Owl Café building is no longer sitting empty — it’s now home to El Milagro, a restaurant that focuses on Mexican food made with family recipes that emphasize fresh ingredients. 

El Milagro’s opening was a long time in the making. The restaurant’s three leads, Marco Zamora, Alan Valverde and Julio Vazquez, are all veteran workers in the restaurant industry and had always dreamed of teaming together to open up their own place.

“We’ve been working in restaurants for a long time,” Zamora said, estimating that he met both Valverde and Vazquez around 20 years ago. “From that time, we dreamed to open our own restaurant.”

The group chose the name El Milagro (which means “the miracle”) because the restaurant was “like a miracle that came into our life,” he said.

While none of the men are from Cloverdale, Valverde stumbled upon the space and never looked back.

Valverde discovered Cloverdale while he was visiting his niece who lives in town, and was immediately struck by the area.

“We were like, ‘Wow, this place is beautiful.’ All of the vines and the hills,” he said. “We thought we should move here. We met the owner of the building and we were like, ‘maybe that’s our chance.’ Here we are.”

Soon after, Valverde moved to town and the trio decided to jump on the opportunity to open up shop.

While the original Owl Café is gone, its imagery still holds an integral role in El Milagro’s identity. The owl has been incorporated into the restaurant's logo, and when patrons walk in they’re greeted with a painting of it on the back of the bar wall.

“The owl is part of Cloverdale,” Zamora said. “We thought we should keep the owl as part of the logo because it’s part of Cloverdale — you have the Owl Café.”

“It has a lot of history, it’s been here a long time,” Valverde added.

According to Zamora, El Milagro is based around a “Mexican-modern” concept that incorporates more of a Mexico City feel.

When it came to defining the menu, Zamora said that they’re trying not to focus on the same kinds of Mexican food that’s already readily available in the area. Rather, they’re using their own backgrounds and family recipes to inform what’s served.

“(Alan) is from Mexico City, I’m from close to Mexico City, Julio is from really close to Mexico City, but different states,” Zamora said. “We focused on that area, on bringing that to Cloverdale. To bring something different, we decided to make fresh tortillas, we decided to make what we really eat in Mexico.”

Vazquez is in charge of the kitchen and while he said that likes everything that El Milagro offers, his favorite thing to make is the fajitas.

Looking forward, Zamora said that restaurant-goers can expect a menu that cycles through to adapt to the seasons. In the winter they’ll focus on serving warmer food like soups and stews, and in the summer the focus will be on ingredients like seafood. 

They’re also interested in having El Milagro play more of a role in the community, Zamora said, suggesting that they eventually want to support schools by opening for fundraisers or holding similar community-minded events.

“We’re very thankful of all of the people from here,” said Valverde. “We’re really, really happy to be here.”

El Milagro had a soft opening earlier this month, but opened full time on Jan. 13. 

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