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Casa de Serapio
Customers have long enjoyed authentic Mexican cuisine at Don Serapio’s in El Reno, but it’s the family atmosphere that keeps them coming back.
By Karlie Tipton
Published May/June 2012
HFrom giant burritos swimming in chili and cheese to prime rib marinated for days, the cuisine at Don Serapio’s in El Reno has been served fresh for more than thirty years.
“I used to go there when they were in Oklahoma City, so I was pretty happy when they moved just up the road,” says longtime customer Rob Williams. “Their fajitas and tamales are better than anywhere else.”
Don Serapio’s delivers on flavor before customers even get a chance to order, with full premeal setups arriving quickly.
“The chips, salsa, queso, and tortillas are always so fresh and full of flavor, and you get plenty of them,” says Ken Brown, El Reno’s police chief.
The rich, authentic taste is a point of pride.
“Jim is a fanatic in the kitchen,” says Janie Sanchez Meadows of her husband, the restaurant’s co-owner. “If something doesn’t taste exactly right—the tortilla soup or the pork green chile or the guacamole—if it doesn’t taste perfect, Jim will start over.”
But the Meadows know that dining out is about more than food.
“Most chain restaurants don’t bother to learn your name, but many of our customers are my dearest friends,” Janie says.
It’s not uncommon to see Jim and Janie toiling in the kitchen, sweeping up under tables, or greeting customers with a big hug.
“I tell my employees every day, ‘You have to put in something great to get something wonderful back,’” Janie says.
The Don Serapio’s story began nearly sixty years ago. Janie’s father, Serapio Sanchez, opened El Rancho Sanchez in Oklahoma City with his son in 1954. After that, four of Serapio’s six sons went on to own their own restaurants. Although Janie was discouraged by her brothers from following in their footsteps, her father knew better.
“My brothers told me I couldn’t do it because I was a girl, but my father always believed in me,” she says.
Janie set out to prove her brothers wrong, inserting herself into the family business any way she could, beginning at age nine.
“I did whatever I needed to,” she says. “I waited tables, cooked, cleaned, and everything else.”
As she moved up the chain of command at El Rancho Sanchez, Janie made one decision that would change her life: In 1970, she hired Jim Meadows, then sixteen years old, to wait tables. She hasn’t regretted it since.
“Jim is a workaholic, and so am I, so we work very well together,” she says. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have married him.”
In 1981, the couple opened Don Serapio’s on North May Avenue in Oklahoma City and decided to break some long-standing Mexican restaurant traditions.
“At the time, most places were buffet-style, but we decided to do table service,” Jim says. “We were one of the first restaurants to serve cheese sauce and tortillas at the table.”
In the late 1990s, the Meadows added a second location in El Reno. They soon decided the smaller community was a better fit and made it their sole base of operations.
“It’s a tradeoff. You have a lot more traffic in the city, but you also have a lot more competition, and overhead is a lot higher,” Jim says. “Out here, things are a little more easygoing, so we can really take good care of our customers.”
That customer-first attitude—and a drive to make their food consistently fresh and high quality—constitutes a formula for success, and it’s one the Meadows will continue to use to keep diners full and happy.
Get There: Don Serapio’s is located at 1637 East Highway 66 in El Reno. (405) 262-7744 or donserapios.com.
Casa de Serapio
At Serapio’s Tortilla Factory, Robert Glenn takes the family business in a new direction.
The Serapio’s legacy of authentic Mexican food cannot be contained within one endeavor. That is why Robert Glenn, son of Don Serapio’s co-owner Janie Meadows, decided to open Serapio’s Tortilla Factory in 2002.
“My family’s been in the business for years, but I wanted to do something a little different,” Glenn says.
Since its inception, Serapio’s Tortilla Factory has tripled its operations. It now supplies more than half a million flour and corn tortillas a day to more than three hundred Mexican restaurants in Oklahoma City and Tulsa and to restaurants in several other states as well.