Silvia Acuna is the mother behind “Mom’s cooking” at Noe Jose Cafe, where she creates authenic Mexican dishes for her sons’ restaurant in Oak Harbor. (Patricia Guthrie / Whidbey News-Times file)

Silvia Acuna is the mother behind “Mom’s cooking” at Noe Jose Cafe, where she creates authenic Mexican dishes for her sons’ restaurant in Oak Harbor. (Patricia Guthrie / Whidbey News-Times file)

No way, Jose! Whidbey cafe where friends and family eat

The cafe’s name is a play on words of the owners’ names — Noe (pronounced “no way”) and Jose Ochoa.

Noe Jose Cafe is all about amigos y familia — friends and family.

Cooks, wait staff, and brother owners Noe and Jose Ochoa all strive to make a lasting connection with customers.

Judging by the lunch rush and lines out the door for weekend breakfast, it appears the strategy works.

“Saturday and Sunday, we are slammed,” Jose Ochoa said. “There was this one time, we had 87 names on our wait list. Now, it’s only one name per group of people, so you can imagine how many people were really waiting in line.”

The brothers, Noe, 23, and Jose, 21, opened the restaurant in 2017 with financial backing from their parents.

The cafe name is a play on words of their own names — Noe is pronounced “no way” and Jose.

Noe Jose Cafe Family Restaurant is inside Oak Harbor’s Harborside Village on Pioneer Way in a space where many restaurants have come and gone. (In nearly 20 years, at least five restaurants have served as the anchor of Harborside Village.) That they’ve managed to not only survive but thrive for more than a year and a half seems a surprise to many — including the owners.

“It’s going great. It’s booming.” Jose said in a recent interview with the Whidbey News-Times. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

Noe Jose Cafe offers a variety of styles of food — from American diner favorites to authentic Mexican cuisine — to satisfy many tastes.

For example, papas con chili with chorizo served with rice and beans and a mushroom Swiss burger were the two specials advertised recently on the cafe’s Facebook page. (Each post, by the way, starts off with “Hello friends and family!”)

The brothers say they don’t really know what they’ll feature from day-to-day or week-to-week.

“We kind of choose that morning,” Jose said. “Friday and Saturday, we’re hoping to do prime rib specials because that’s always popular.”

Ribeye and prawns, grilled cod florentine and shrimp albondigas soup are just some of the specials that pop up in mouth-watering photos on their Facebook page.

Silvia Acuna, Noe and Jose’s mother, also known as “Mo,” has been in the kitchen since day one. She is the one cooking, frying and baking the Mexican entrees. There’s also an aunt and two other cooks serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Acuna makes meals passed down from the kitchens of her Mexican family. Pozole, quesadilla michoacan, chicken taquitos and thick homemade flour tortillas are just a few of her flavorful favorites.

“My mom’s menu just got bigger,” said Jose, one of Acuna’s six sons. “For a lot of customers, most of the time, they go straight for my Mama’s cooking.”

Many customers who live beyond Oak Harbor and drive in for grocery shopping and other errands have added Noe Jose Cafe to their list of stops. For others, it’s their destination.

People such as Durand Dace from Clinton, who recently left an online comment long on praise for the food, service and friendly atmosphere.

“The entire experience at Noe Jose was among the best I’ve ever had and every aspect of this family-owned restaurant was spot on,” Dace wrote. “As for the food, it is indescribably fantastic.”

Traveling to Oak Harbor from their home in Clinton, Dace said his family decided to give it a try for breakfast because of its good reputation.

“I was in love from my first bite,” Dace wrote. “Tortillas were dreamy, the food hot and amazingly fresh … the huevos rancheros were layered perfectly and were so flavorful.”

They’ve gone back a few times. “For us to make a journey just to grab breakfast, that says something,” Dace said in a phone interview.

Dace also commended the work ethnic of Noe and Jose Ochoa; they each take one day off a week and they’re often at the restaurant 12 hours a day, from open to close.

“Exhausting? Sometimes? Yes,” Jose admitted. “But at the same time, it’s ours.”

If you go

What: Noe Jose Cafe Family Restaurant

Where: 830 SE Pioneer Way, No. 106, Oak Harbor

When: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

More: 360-682-6119 or www.facebook.com/NoeJoseCafe

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