Sunday, July 14, 2024

La Javelina: Texan Inspired Local Cuisine

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Gabrielle Page and Phil Lehmann are the husband and wife duo behind La Javelina, located at 285 US-2 in Leavenworth. La Javelina was inspired in part by Lehmann’s childhood on a dairy farm in Texas. Kolaches (pronounced kuh-laa-cheez) are a pastry that is found in Texas that La Javelina specializes in.

 Wheat is also very common in Texas and La Javelina uses flour tortillas. Page and Lehmann are also into local sourcing. The farmers send them a fresh sheet of what they have each week and Page and Lehmann try to incorporate those foods into their menu each week. They also go to the farmers market when they can as well as put announcements out on the Leavenworth Facebook page for produce.

 It may seem unconventional to advertise for a restaurant on a Facebook page, but it worked.

 “I put a message out on the Facebook page and said, you know, does anyone have a bunch of rhubarb growing in their yard? We'll trade you a gift card for your rhubarb. We probably got 100 pounds of rhubarb just from our neighbors,” Page said.

 Rhubarb isn’t the only local ingredient they use. Page recently found a heritage pig farmer in Manson who she plans to purchase whole pigs from.

 La Javelina opened in November of 2020, but plans were to open much sooner. Originally, Page and Lehmann planned to move into the space in 2019. Page was the manager of the farmers market. She knew Nadine Witowski, the owner of Good Mood Food, the restaurant which preceded La Javelina, because Witowski was on the board of directors for the market.

 The two connected through the farmers market. Originally, the plan was that La Javelina would open in April of 2020 but everything was shut down. Page and Lehmann got into their restaurant space in July of 2020 but the health department was not accepting new applications for permits at the time.

 “So we just kind of waited, and did some catering in the meantime,” Page said. “And then we got open at the end of November 2020 and what that has done to kind of our business model is created a sort of takeout walk up window, kind of business model.”

 Currently, Page said, La Javelina is heading in a different direction. They want to include dining in as an option in addition to their grab and go. However, it is difficult to find the staff for their business, she said. About 8 to 10 people are working for the restaurant.

 They also plan to extend their hours everyday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and start a Happy Hour. Additionally, La Javelina gets a lot of requests for catering. With so many events postponed, there is a giant demand for catering, Page said, and the two could take a catering gig almost every day.

 Besides La Javelina, Lehmann and Page opened Sunset Bar and Grill in Manson in June of 2021. Page spends three to four days in Manson and spends the rest of her week in Leavenworth. Lehmann spends most of his time in Leavenworth but will be in Manson a few days a week. They have a chef and bar manager to help at Sunset Bar and Grill.

 Both Lehmann and Page have been in the industry for over 15 years. Page started in the restaurant industry in college. They started a restaurant because they both wanted to be able to work for themselves and do things with their own vision. It was important for them to be a part of the community they live in and create jobs, connection and involvement.

 Page said that herself and Lehmann have been in the valley for just about four years. They met in Seattle. After that, they helped a friend open a restaurant in Vail, Colorado for several years until they went down to Texas to help Lehmann’s grandparents move off of their dairy farm.

 When the two came back to the northwest, they decided that they weren’t interested in being in Seattle and fell in love with being in the mountains, so they decided to come to Leavenworth. Leavenworth is one type of community, but for Page a restaurant is a community as well.

 “A restaurant, the table, is kind of a common denominator for people where everybody eats,” she said. “Everybody sits down. And sharing a meal is just like a really comforting important part of our culture and our society. And so that's kind of what drove me in the industry and then when I met Phil, that's his art, that is his love is creating and food.”

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