When Adam Young and Ernesto Ortega opened Bamboo Mexican Grill and Pub in the Oil Center Gardens, they were already well versed in running a restaurant. Now, they have their hands in every aspect of the business and are quickly learning that Lafayette’s restaurant market is quite competitive — especially when you don’t have an established name and reputation.

But Young and Ortega say that just means they’ll have to prove themselves, and early reviews indicate they’re doing just that. “In Lafayette, it’s harder for someone who is coming from the outside,” says Ortega.

“Ernesto and I worked very closely [at Tortilla Soup], hand in hand, and we decided to open this [restaurant] on our own, and it’s rough,” says Young. “No one knows who you are, where you come from, and everyone here in Lafayette wants to know, ‘Who are the owners of this, where do they come from, who are they related to?’ They want to know who’s preparing their food. That’s very different for us. We’re learning.”

Ortega hails from Mexico but moved to the U.S. 14 years ago, started in the restaurant business seven years ago in Canada, and then came to Lafayette via New Orleans.

Smith is from Hawaii and most recently worked in Hammond. The two were managers at Tortilla Soup on Ambassador Caffery Parkway in Lafayette and were instrumental in establishing that restaurant before opening Bamboo at 1120 Coolidge Blvd., the former location of Boulevard Grille. After Boulevard Grille closed in January, Young and Ortega secured the building in February, and it took the co-owners only one month to get the restaurant open.

To keep costs down, Young and Ortega employ only two kitchen staff members and do the rest themselves — but they aren’t letting that detract from quality, service or speed.

The restaurant specializes in Mexican food, combining Tex-Mex and traditional Mexican to accentuate the authenticity of true Mexican food. “Everything depends on the flavor, so we’re trying to make the flavor more authentic, more Mexican,” says Ortega. Their most popular dish is an open-face fajita without the tortillas: a combination of Mexican rice, onions, bell peppers mushrooms and cheese sauce, along with choice of meat, called the Piñata special.

Though the name Bamboo Grill and Pub has obvious Asian implications, Ortega’s close connection to the name came to him after praying to his father, who died last September.

“We were writing a lot of Mexican names, just like everybody knows,” says Ortega. “I start to pray, and I ask my father about a name. Just as soon as I asked him, ‘Bamboo’ came to my head. I said, ‘Bamboo?’ because it’s something from Asia, but I said, ‘Well, if he said Bamboo, then it’s going to be Bamboo!’”

Bamboo Grill and Pub is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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