Manuel Ramirez always dreamed about opening a restaurant.
“Ever since I was very young, I liked cooking,” said Ramirez. “At the family gatherings, I was the one cooking. It’s something I always wanted to try out.”
A business owner in Mesa for 16 years, Ramirez said had a barbershop and then he and his wife Blanca opened Mesa Barber School about seven years ago.
Three years ago, he and Blanca opened a restaurant, Carne Asada, next door to the barber school near Dobson Road and Main Street.
Ramirez said the counter-service restaurant serves up Sonoran-style Mexican food and offers a lot of variety.
“The most common things we sell are burritos,” he said. “It’s pretty much build-your-own with the proteins being more authentic than other places.”
Proteins include carne asada, or steak; carnitas, or shredded pork; birria, or shredded beef; and grilled chicken.
Toppings include three different types of onions - regular white, grilled and pickled; mozzarella and cojita cheese; tomato; cilantro; cucumber; avocado sauce; several kinds of salsa and sour cream.
Cheetos is even offered as a topping.
“The Hot Cheeto burrito comes from California,” said Ramirez. “I saw it over there, put it together here and I liked it and we started to sell it. It’s very popular.”
Eventually, Ramirez would like to build a franchise.
But he admits, “Since I’m pretty new at this business I want to get a little more experience in training people.”
Ramirez does all of the cooking right now, but is training a couple of chefs.
“One of the things that makes us different from other restaurants is we have a charcoal grill,” added Ramirez. “Most restaurants just use a flat grill. We use real charcoal to get that mesquite flavor.”
While all this is going on, Ramirez also is running the barber school, where students are required to complete 1,500 hours.
“Once they finish their program, they take an exam with the state board and they can become a professional, licensed barber,” explained Ramirez. “Right now, we have about 30 students. We are looking to open another spot by August in Mesa.”
The school accepts both part-time and full-time students. Tuition is around $9,000.
“Depending on the schedule of the students, we do an estimate of how long they’re going to be in school in order for them to complete the hours they need. We give the payment, based on that, so they don’t have to pay it all up front.”
Ramirez is working on a student loan program but currently doesn’t offer one. So, students must pay off their tuition before finishing the curriculum.
The school focuses on “shaving, like the straight razor shaves,” Ramirez said.
“The haircuts are mainly the short haircuts like the fades and flattops, anything a guy would get in a barbershop. We teach everything to be correct from sanitation to the steps of the haircut and how they have to do it.”
Haircuts by students are offered on a walk-in basis only for $25.