Pulido’s celebrates 50 years in the restaurant business
Pulido’s Mexican Restaurants
2900 Pulido St.
Fort Worth 76107
It was 1966 when Pedro Pulido and his wife, Dionicia, opened their first Mexican food restaurant in Fort Worth. Fifty years in any business is something to celebrate, but 50 years in the restaurant business is a monumental accomplishment.
Over the decades, Pulido’s Mexican Restaurants has opened a chain of locations, reaching from Mineral Wells to Stephenville. Pulido’s is now owned by Pedro’s son, Robert Pulido Sr. It has 10 restaurants plus the Tortilla Factory, located on Benbrook Parkway, which supplies the stores with fresh and authentic tortillas, chips and salsas. Another factory on Old Benbrook Road produces the pralines and tamales and packages more of the firm’s salsas for other labels.
Robert Pulido Sr. is joined in the management of the business by his son Robert Pulido Jr., who goes by Robbie. “In 1966, my grandmother made all the tortillas by hand, but as we continued to grow, automation was necessary to keep up the pace,” said Robbie Pulido. “Most commercially produced tortillas and chips rely on corn flour these days [because it is cheaper and easier to process ingredients], but we still make our masa from freshly ground corn, and that makes a difference you can really taste.”
The original Pulido’s location is on what is now known as Pulido Street between Montgomery Street and University Drive. It was built by the family themselves, on land they owned just across the street from their home (which is no longer standing).
“When I was a child, it was a residential neighborhood with plenty of room for our cows to graze,” recalled Robert Pulido Sr. Industrial growth and highway expansion have grown up around the now-famous original restaurant, preserving it like a tiny island or a time capsule of what the area used to look like.
Founder Pedro Pulido immigrated from Michoacán, Mexico, to the United States at the age of 19 and found work on the railroad in Montana in 1928. He later made his way to Keller and eventually to Fort Worth, working on the Texas and Pacific Railway. Fort Worth is where he met Dionicia, who had herself come from Jalisco, Mexico, bringing her family recipes along with her.
When Pedro would open his lunch pail, he found that his co-workers were asking to buy the fresh tamales his wife had packed for him. This gave him the idea to open a family restaurant.
“Dad was a workaholic. It seemed like he worked even harder at home than he even did on the job. That is one thing my parents passed down to all of us – our work ethic,” said Pulido Sr. “Both of my parents died at the age of 92, and both of them worked steadily up until just a few days before they died.”
The family business has between 240 and 250 employees at any given time. Many have been with Pulido’s for over 25 years and they even boast five employees who were with them from the very beginning. Their workers are more like extended family members.
The loyalty doesn’t end there. Both of their factories are run almost exclusively by members of about three families who are all dedicated to maintaining consistent quality. Few business owners can make a claim like that.
“My plan was originally to go to dental school, but then my first child was born, so we’ll blame my ever getting into the restaurant business on my son Robbie,” said Pulido Sr. “God always has a plan for us, even though sometimes what it is, we don’t know.”
When the restaurant first opened, the plan was for Robert Sr. to be the manager in the front of the house and his mother to be the cook running the kitchen, but it was so hectic when they started out that he ended up working side by side with her in the kitchen for the first six months.
“Besides a lot of hard work, consistency has been the real key to our success. But even that was a big challenge to start with,” said Pulido Sr. “I had to get my mother’s recipes out of her head and written down on paper. She liked to cook with a pinch of this and a dash of that. We had to know exact measurements to make the dishes taste the same each day.”
Over the past 50 years, the hunger for Mexican dishes has grown right along with the region’s population. But Pulido’s has not seen the need to make many flashy changes, and the menu remains much the same as it has been for half a century (apart from the prices – in 1966 an enchilada dinner cost $1.35).
“I am not very good about change,” Pulido Sr. confessed. But with generations now addicted to Pulido’s dishes, they have really seen no need to reinvent the wheel (or in this case the enchilada dinners, moles or tamales) to keep pace with competition.