Health scare leads Victoria restaurateur to business endeavor
May 7, 2011 at 12:07 a.m.
Some people draw inspiration from hobbies. For others, it comes from TV or movies.
For Robert Rodriguez, it came from a trip to the doctor.
"I found out I was diabetic," said Rodriguez, 46. "That meant I had to change so many little things in life. It was a shock."
Among the biggest changes were updates to his eating habits. And, with a culinary background, that's when inspiration struck.
The Victoria resident decided to open a restaurant with options for everyone, from diabetic patients monitoring sugar intake to those watching their waistlines and those just looking for a tasty meal. Thus, Robert's Eatery & Bakeshop was born.
He opened his business in mid-March at 1504 N. Laurent St., but not before doing his homework.
Rodriguez consulted medical professionals and dieticians during his quest for entrepreneurship, and even developed menu options with help from health-conscious websites.
Dottie Bitterly worked with Rodriguez on multiple occasions, helping him develop menu options and the like.
The restaurant gives people a chance to customize their meals, depending on their individual preferences or restrictions, said Bitterly, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator with the DeTar Healthcare System.
Sugar-free cookies and pastries, vegetable omelettes, grilled chicken salads and more are all featured on the finished menu.
Victoria restaurants have become better in recent years when it comes to offering healthy options, Bitterly said, noting that salads, oatmeal and vegetables are common on many menus now. But it goes beyond that, she said, noting people should still be careful when it comes to choosing things like salad dressings or baked potato toppings.
"In my opinion, we all need to do better with our food intake," she said. "We should make healthier choices all the time. He just makes it easier for us."
First-time customer Belinda Castro visited the restaurant on April 29 because a co-worker recommended it. She had also tried the cookies before and said she was impressed.
"You couldn't tell they were sugar-free," she said, explaining it's nice not to sacrifice flavor for healthy options. "I think I'll be back."
Janie Martinez and her husband, Louis Martinez III, have been to the eatery several times because of the food, atmosphere and staff.
The healthier options are another draw, Janie Martinez said, explaining that Rodriguez even visited her table her first time at the restaurant to explain the health benefits each aspect of her chef salad offered.
"It's nice to know you're eating well and to have healthier options available," she said.
However, her husband said taste was his top priority.
"I don't know if it's healthy or not, but the food is good," he said as he waited on his meal. "That's what I care about."
Thus far, Rodriguez said he's proud of his new endeavor and the success he's seen. Business was steady when the eatery first opened, he said, and has picked up since then.
"At lunch, we're packed," he said. "There isn't an empty table."
But Rodriguez has seen success in more than just his business venture.
After curbing his eating habits and dropping some weight, doctors might soon take him off some of his diabetes medication.
"That's the best thing that can happen," he said. "I want to stay healthy. And, with the restaurant, I want to help other people stay healthy, too."