As a Latina business owner and operator, Gabriela Bucio is changing the way Austinites eat, imbibe, and have fun by making excellent use of her prowess and eye for trends through her constantly growing restaurant sphere. The Gabriela’s Group which encompasses restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other projects across the city including Mexican restaurant Gabriela’s, pink-themed taco joint Taquero Mucho. and revived cafe Revival Coffee.
Like the typical success stories, Bucio’s didn’t happen overnight. From 2010 through 2017, she worked as a bartender at Mexican restaurant Tres Amigos, after which she became the bar manager and social media manager for the establishment. Meanwhile, her younger brother Arturo was assisting the owner of the now-closed gluten-free bakery Wild Wood Bakehouse. “We would come home and talk about how we wish that we could have our own restaurant one day since we both knew how to run restaurants,” says Bucio. That’s when the siblings decided to begin the restaurant group in 2018.
Grit and passion have no doubt played an integral part in Bucio’s upwards career trajectory. Having a business mindset doesn’t hurt either. Bucio’s advice to burgeoning business owners is this: “If I can do it, they can too,” she states. “I used to be a patron at most of the spots that I’m at now. I used to be a bartender and now I have businesses. I represent the Latinx community here downtown,” Bucio says. “I do not think we as Latinos and Latinas are properly represented downtown.”
Since the siblings both had knowledge of all the facets of restaurant ownership, the next step naturally was to open a place of their own. This became East Austin Mexican restaurant Gabriela’s in 2018, taking over what had been 100 Pizzitas.
Gabriela’s is meant to be a reflection of Bucio: “It has my name,” she says, “and it’s just everything that I’m into.” She didn’t originally intend to open multiple restaurants and bars. The cuisine nods to the siblings’ Michoacán upbringing. The drinks are inspired by Mexican desserts such as the paleta shots. Other signature cocktails with Mexican influences include tamarind margarita.
Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, the Bucio siblings work together harmoniously. Arturo operates as Gabriela’s business partner, while her younger brother Salvador is the regional manager for all the establishments.
Bucio followed Gabriela’s with two downtown ventures: nightclub Mala Vida in early 2019, taking over the former Gatsby bar space on East Sixth; and then colorful taco restaurant Taquero Mucho in early 2020, which took over the former Frank & Angie’s pizzeria space on West Sixth.
Guests of Gabriela’s often asked for Bucio to open something new in South Austin. Likewise, she felt the need to expand to cater to the guests who reside in cities such as Kyle, Bastrop, and San Antonio that could more easily access a South Austin location.
Since Bucio lived and worked in the southern area of the city for several years, she became familiar with the neighborhood business as a patron. When she was given the right option to take over one of these businesses, a property with a big outdoor patio and tons of free parking, she jumped at the opportunity. “I couldn’t pass it up,” she says. This led to the March 2021 opening of Gabriela’s in Southpark Meadows.
To fulfill another need she thinks is missing in the city, Bucio is now working on opening a new seafood restaurant Seareinas in the St. John’s neighborhood in north Austin this summer. The name is a play on the Spanish word for “mermaid,” which directly translates as “queen of the sea.” She envisions Seareinas as a combination of the nightclub and restaurants, featuring a full bar, an elevated stage for live music and performances, and an outdoor sports court for games. She originally planned to open the restaurant before the pandemic, but the South Austin location of Gabriela’s offers a preview menu for the time being.
Not one to rest, Bucio also plans on opening a second location of Taquero Mucho near the Domain by late summer 2021, because of customer requests for an expansion. With the growth in North Austin particularly around that area — including the forthcoming soccer stadium — the address made sense.
Additionally, Bucio recently took over Revival Coffee on the east side of Austin. Since the coffee shop is located between Bucio’s home and the Gabriela’s restaurant, she would go pick up coffee often. She got to know the owner, Alyse Bordelon, and employees.
When COVID-19 hit the city, things became financially challenging for Revival. At one point, staff was locked out of the building due to late rent payments. Compelled to help, Bucio reached out to Bordelon to offer assistance. They worked out a deal where Bucio took over the business and paid Bordelon’s back-rent. Now, the remodeled Revival Coffee was able to remain open with the same staff.
Much like every restaurant and bar around the globe, Gabriela’s also experienced its share of pandemic challenges. Through the uncertainty — and series of closings and re-openings — the restaurant continued to do well thanks to to-go, curbside, and patio service. Since both locations boast patio space, Gabriela’s restaurants are perfect for outdoor dining. Current COVID-19 safety protocols at Gabriela’s consist of tables six feet apart and only seating a maximum of 10 guests. Staff and patrons must wear masks. (Mala Vida had been issued with a COVID-19 violation in December 2020.)
Bucio does her best to represent the local Latinx community by being a proud Mexican living in the U.S. and using her businesses to help others feel comfortable to express their true authentic selves, she says, adding: “Ultimately, I want my fellow Latinos to have a restaurant and club owner that looks just like them.”
The fuel that keeps Bucio motivated is the recognition and appreciation from the local community. She says, “When people say nice things to me, that just keeps me going.”