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Pictured back row from left are Los Potrillos employees Nick Archibech, Syra Carnillo, Chelsea Orona, Luisa Zamarron, Diane Rodriguez, front row from left, Vanessa Lopez (owner's daughter), Angela Zamarron, Anita Brewer, Alma Martinez (owner) and Lawanda Goodman. Not pictured are Alfonso Rodriguez and Joey Lopez (owner's son). (Teresa Lemon - Daily Press)

Pictured back row from left are Los Potrillos employees Nick Archibech, Syra Carnillo, Chelsea Orona, Luisa Zamarron, Diane Rodriguez, front row from left, Vanessa Lopez (owner’s daughter), Angela Zamarron, Anita Brewer, Alma Martinez (owner) and Lawanda Goodman. Not pictured are Alfonso Rodriguez and Joey Lopez (owner’s son). (Teresa Lemon – Daily Press)

For Alma Martinez, owner of Los Potrillos, the timing couldn’t have been better.

“I’d been waitressing in Artesia for 18 years,” Martinez says, “nine at Chapz and nine at The Paddock. Eventually, customers start asking you, ‘Why don’t you open your own restaurant?’”

Los Potrillos had been open only a short time under its original owner, and it came to Martinez’s attention that he was willing to lease the business to buy, with all equipment included.

“So I thought about it for a few days,” she says. “I called some of my kitchen guys, some of the girls, and got their opinion. They were all like, ‘You can do this.’ So we did. And here we are almost a year later.”

On Nov. 19, 2015, Martinez reopened the doors of Los Potrillos, and her eatery has been growing steadily in popularity since. As a testament, just shy of the business’ one-year anniversary, it was voted Best Restaurant in this year’s Best of Artesia contest.

“That was actually one of my goals when I first opened this restaurant,” Martinez said of the award. “I didn’t really think of winning, I just wanted to be nominated. But winning Best Restaurant… it felt really good. It was a tough competition, I’m sure, but it was a good feeling to win.”

As further testament, Los Potrillos was also nominated in four other Best of Artesia categories: Best Salsa, Best Burrito, Best Burger, and Best Customer Service.

“It was nice to know we were a part of all five of those categories,” Martinez said. “It just shows that in a small town like this, if you have good food and good service, you really can’t go wrong.”

As a former waitress, Martinez prides herself on her friendly, accommodating waitstaff. And with many of her mother, Yolanda Martinez’s, recipes coming out of the kitchen, her food standards are a focal point, as well.

“Some of our recipes are from our cooks, from our kitchen manager, Javier Sanchez, and a lot of it also comes from my mom’s cooking,” Martinez says. “If Javier has a question on something, sometimes he calls her. She and he worked together at Chapz and The Paddock.”

Los Potrillos has an extensive selection of Mexican fare, with gordita and enchilada plates amongst the favorites. On the appetizer menu, the green chile strips are popular, as well. But Martinez says some of the restaurant’s biggest sellers are the steak fingers, chicken strips, and burgers. Many Artesians find those items to be nostalgic tastes from the days when Los Potrillos’ building housed Tastee-Freez and Ruth’s Restaurant.

“(Ruth Bratcher) has been in here to visit us before,” Martinez said. “A lot of people ask if she gave me her recipes, so that’s a compliment.”

Martinez says another component of Los Potrillos’ success is the solid working relationship she has with her staff, something she feels extends to the way customers perceive the business.

“These girls and I worked together for years and years,” she says. “We went our own separate ways for a while, and it was hard, but I knew they’d eventually come work with me because we know each other. That and just being able to serve hometown customers – when you’ve done it for so long and you stop, you miss it.

“I also enjoy the fact that my daughter (Vanessa Lopez) and I can run the restaurant together, because she’s in here helping a lot when she’s not at school in Lubbock. She’s just one of those kids that will pick up what you need her to do anywhere you put her, and my son, Joey (Lopez) also comes in to help when he’s in town.”

Martinez’s staff also know they have her full support in their efforts to maintain Artesia’s favorite restaurant.

“This is not possible without good waitresses and good cooks,” she says. “There’s a heck of a good group of people working behind me, and I know I can trust each and every one of them. I can leave for a day or a week, and they’ll text me, ‘Don’t worry about it, your restaurant will be taken care of,’ and I know it will be.

“And they know that I’m here to take care of them, too. If I need to go in the back and cook a burger, I’m going to do that. If I need to cover a waitress shift, I’m going to do that. It’s just about teamwork. Success comes from teamwork and communication, and I thank every one of them, because they’ve all worked really hard.”

Los Potrillos plans to celebrate its one-year anniversary Saturday, Nov. 19, with giveaways and cake for its customers. Additional details will be announced as the date approaches.