The Chef's Favorites

Chef Alfonso Ramos

Owner Alfonso Ramos (center) with son Alfonso "Tati" Ramos and wife Ana Michel Ramos
Owner Alfonso Ramos (center) with son Alfonso “Tati” Ramos and wife Ana Michel Ramos

Chef and owner Alfonso Ramos’ Carbon Mexican Steakhouse has four locations throughout Kitsap. They serve up delicious and authentic Mexican food in substantial portions. The atmosphere is festive and the staff helpful and professional. The steakhouses also specialize in margaritas featuring Mexican fruits like guava, prickly pear, mango and many more.

The Content ScoutTell us how you got here as a chef.

I moved from Mexico to Los Angeles with my brother when I was 16 to play soccer. That’s when I started working in a restaurant. I moved to Tacoma in 1994 and worked in different restaurants. I thought, if I can run a restaurant for someone else, I can operate my own, so I opened El Guadalajara, a very small restaurant, with $5,000 10 days after 9/11. It was really hard, my brother and I working every single day for two and a half years to build the business while my wife worked in another restaurant. We were close to closing, when finally, business started to slowly increase month after month. Two years later, I took over the space next to me and opened a bar with a patio and that’s when everything changed.

How long did you operate El Guadalajara?

Six to seven years until the building was sold. I found a location on 6th Avenue and moved all my equipment, and business went well for five years. It was then a customer offered me a space on the peninsula, and I really liked the area, so we moved.

Carbon Mexican SteakhouseWhat is Carbon?

Carbon is authentic Mexican — the way locals eat in Mexico. More flavorful, fresher. Many Mexican restaurants here are the same; not that they’re serving bad food, just the same. I wanted to offer something different. So, five years ago, with a friend, we started Carbon. It can be challenging to get people to try new dishes because when they think Mexican, they expect enchiladas or chimichangas. But when they try authentic, they love it!

Your menu has so many selections!

Mexican food offers a huge variety because you can take dishes from each state, so that’s what makes us different, offering plates from various Mexican states.

Carbon Mexican SteakhouseYou recently opened in Kingston; how is that going?

We feel really welcome. Everybody seems excited and happy. We almost came to this location seven years ago when The Oak Table moved, but they took their kitchen equipment with them, so it would have been too costly. But six months ago, I drove through Kingston and the space was available. I felt like it was time, so within a week, I had the space for Carbon.

When did you know you wanted to be a chef or restaurateur?

My dream was to play professional soccer. I had played all my life, and I was good. But life took me this way. I’m still playing for fun in the over-40s league. When I was working in California with my brother at a big restaurant chain called El Torito, I learned a lot, so that took me here.

What’s the most challenging part of operating four restaurants?

Finding the right people! When you find the right people, I think it’s not too hard. You put in a lot of hours and a lot of passion — you must really like it. When you own your own restaurant, you’re working 14 to 16 hours a day easily. I try to visit every location every day to see what they need, talk with employees, make sure they are happy. My truck has 250,000 miles on it.

Carbon Mexican SteakhouseWhat one dish would you urge someone to try?

I would like everyone to try — because everyone who does says, “Oh man, I love this!” — my “Ta Carbonada,” which serves two. It’s a Mexican parrillada (mixed grill) that has a little bit of everything, including carne asada, chicken, chorizo, short ribs, two baby quesadillas, two fire grilled tostadas, cactus, sweet roasted corn, whole beans, three salsas and tortillas. That way you can try a little bit of everything.

Also, our Papa Loco is a bestseller. It’s a baked potato with cream cheese, melted asadero cheese, your choice of meat topped off with smoked bacon, my house-made dressing and green onions. That’s a traditional Sonoran and Sinaloan dish that’s very popular in Mexico.

What would your mother say about where you’re now?

My mom passed away two years ago. We were so poor when I was young, I have supported them since I was 16. But she was really happy for me because when I moved here at age 16, I promised to build her a house where she lived and where I grew up in Mascota, Jalisco, Mexico. I built her that house in 1997.

Carbon Mexican SteakhouseHow often do you go back to Mexico?

I was there two years ago, but my plan is to move back when I retire and spend time with my father. [Ramos proudly shares photos of his parents’ house, his village and his church.] The Mexican culture is when you have a reunion, you eat, have a couple drinks and have fun. Moms and grandmas are cooking for everybody … it’s the best food.

Carbon has a very creative margarita list.

I have many unique options. We use different Mexican fruits that I remember eating as a kid. We also have our own beer, made for us by a brewery in Belfair: Carbon IPA, negra, lager and amber. And I have my own wine, made for us in Yakima, Carbon Red and chardonnay. And my plan is to have my own tequila too.

Do you think that four locations is just right?

I think it’s too many! I think I have enough. I want to concentrate on what I have right now, finding the right people, and I think I’m close to having the right team. Then I want to spend time with my wife and kids.

Carbon Mexican Steakhouse

Belfair, Manchester, Silverdale and Kingston 360-328-2287