chula Logroño restaurant has become a benchmark “very well received” by Rioja diners
9 years ago, at the San Mateo preview, Javier Sáenz opened the door of his rice restaurant La Chula. He leveraged the space and traction that a similar franchised restaurant has, as well as the experience he’s gained working in it, to step up and somehow add continuity to the establishment.
As Sáenz admits, in a Logroño with many good restaurants, he wanted to take advantage of a niche to make himself a little different from the current offering. “When I opened La Chula, there was no other restaurant of this type in the city,” he says.
The beginnings were modest because it unfolded gradually: “Initially we only hosted 40 people, we were testing ourselves” and the result was not bad because nine years later La Chula continues to do well and always “we were very well received”, explains Javier Sáenz.
The details of the La Chula menu can be chosen with both rice and fideuá.
However, as time went on, changes were made to the menu and now rice is not only served as a ‘star’ dish, but they have been making fideuá for some time now. “We’ve always been on the menu, but we realized that with a few minor changes, we could do with fideuá all the preparations we did with rice, and that’s where we are,” he says. he also says “most of the people want to eat rice, there are very few who want fideuá from us”, not daring to say whether this is due to tradition or ignorance. Among the rice dishes, the most successful are those with meat (rice with tripe, ears and legs or duck with goose) and among fish dishes, two classics: seafood or rice with lobster. When it comes to wines, there is no doubt. «People keep asking for red wine, even with paella; and now, surprisingly, semi-sweet too»
Over time, especially after the pandemic, Javier Sáenz states that habits and customs have also changed. “I don’t know why, but people are much less likely to eat rice now than they used to. Until a few years ago, we were almost always full for dinner on the weekends, but not anymore. “People keep coming in the same way at lunch, but not at dinner,” he says. Despite this, the owner of La Chula plans to extend the hours. So far, La Chula opens at noon every day of the week and only on Friday and Saturday nights, but “the next step I’d take is to open Tuesday through Sunday nights as well.” “I can’t do that right now because I need staff trained, but otherwise it’s more or less decided,” he says.
Another of Sáenz’s plans for the more or less near future is to take advantage of the facility’s stunning tasting room.
In the meantime, it will continue to offer rice dishes, fideuá, and the rest of the menu, both to eat onsite and to send home. “We got involved in this during the pandemic and now we have one more option available. Additionally, I found some aluminum paella pans that no longer need to be returned, so it’s much more convenient. We ship them in a pan of freshly made paella, in boxes like pizzas, with our own delivery guy to guarantee fast delivery because platforms haven’t always been able to provide fast delivery,” he explains.
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