Bryan Ramos came to Raleigh in pursuit of a motocross career. When life pivoted him away from those ambitions, Ramos put his motocross fearlessness and drive into opening an auto repair shop—at age 19. He later transitioned into the construction industry and started his own business once again. It was through constructing other people’s restaurants that Ramos decided he may as well just build his own.
At first, Ramos envisioned opening a straight-forward, fast-casual fried chicken restaurant. But inspiration led him down a different path. He teamed up with a co-owner, Grease Melgar, to create a dining experience that would break away from the typical Raleigh restaurant. Since he had grown up in a community where the patio served as the epicenter of social life, Ramos focused on securing a space that would allow him to create that same experience for diners. Inspired by frequent visits to Miami, Ramos planned to surround his restaurant with lush greenery and saturate the atmosphere with a tropical party vibe to transport diners to the shores of South Beach. His search for the perfect patio led him to North Raleigh’s Poyner Place, where he found a space featuring a sprawling patio.
El Patio’s tropical ambience isn’t the restaurant’s only attention-getter. Reimagined classics and fusion dishes marry Latino flavors with Japanese techniques—a reflection of some of the culinary concepts Ramos discovered during his travels. But in order to offer such eclectic entrées, Ramos knew he had to find the right chef.
Chef Juan Camilo Espana initially presented dishes more akin to his fine dining background, but his willingness to shift culinary gears to a fusion concept made a big impression on Ramos. For months before Ramos opened El Patio’s doors, his team traveled to other cities, researching dishes and collecting inspiration for the restaurant’s menu.
Their research led to a diverse mashup of dishes. One features a playful interpretation of classic steak frites—a Brazilian-style grilled steak served alongside fried yuca (instead of fries). El Patio’s version of bandeja paisa—a hearty traditional Colombian dish consisting of sofrito, chorizo, fried pork belly, eggs, rice and an assortment of other elements—is presented with modern touches. Time-honored Latino dishes are transformed by stuffing tempura shrimp, bacon and cream cheese into a maki-style sushi roll, and topping each piece of sushi with lomo saltado—a Pervuian stir-fry consisting of steak, tomatoes, onions and french fries.
While Latin sushi rolls might be outside of some diners’ comfort zone, Ramos urges guests to have an open mind. “Our vision is that the mix of flavors will be an explosion of flavor in your mouth,” he says.
Ramos is upfront that El Patio doesn’t represent any particular country’s cuisine. “I like to clarify with people: Don’t expect a dish from your country [to be prepared] the same way, because you’re going to be disappointed,” he says. “You’re going to be trying something different, with our tweaks.”
Ramos feels at home here in the Triangle. “I’m so grateful to be in Raleigh,” he says. “In the last 10 years you can see a lot of changes in Raleigh, and I feel like I’ve been part of that growth. … Raleigh is ready. for different and new stuff.”
Grandma’s Pinto Beans with Pork Sofrito are served on the same plate with Colombian chorizo, fried pork belly, grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce on top, white rice, a green mixed salad with El Patio’s special cilantro aioli, fried egg, corn arepa, avocado and green plantain tostones, or sweet plantain maduros. In Colombia, this traditional dish varies depending on the region. El Patio Bar and Grill takes it to a different level.
Ingredients for Grandma’s Pinto Beans
2 cups of pinto beans
1 white onion
Directions for Grandma’s Pinto Beans
Cook the beans with the vegetables for 45 minutes. When they are soft, lower the temperature and add the pork sofrito.
Ingredients for Pork Sofrito
8 ounces of green onion
8 ounces of bacon or pork belly
4 ounces of ketchup
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
Directions for Pork Sofrito
In a pan, cook the pork to extract its fat. Cook the chopped onion on the same fat. When it changes color, add the diced tomato and ketchup. Reserve the mixture and add it to the beans.
Cook these components using your preferred frying method:
Pork Belly (chicharrón)
Apera (grill it if preferred)
Tostones (or sweet plantains)
Putting It All Together
Assemble the beans with the pork sofrito and the fried components to create the final entrée.