Jorge’s Cantina opens to great acclaim

It’s big and lively, full of stylish details, a party atmosphere and lots of smiling people inquiring about the quality of the food and half-empty glasses.

Welcome to Jorge’s Cantina, 4225 Franklin Ave., a Citrano family production that welcomed 10,281 guests during its opening week through Thursday.

But who’s counting, joked partner Kyle Citrano. His Apple watch tracked 15,000 or more steps each day during work hours, when he and nearly 290 employees greeted the crowds, though not all at once. Guests paid an average of $25 to $27 per bill, and Citrano said feedback in person and online suggested Jorge’s Cantina made a good first impression.

The restaurant mixes old and new, traditional Tex-Mex with spicy nuances. It features a tequila lounge, bar tables, artwork, decor full of reds, greens and blues, chandeliers and music “loud enough to create a rhythm for the restaurant,” Citrano said. The mixing, matching and experimentation filled several months, with attention paid to everything from the prints on the ceiling tiles to the houseplants to the candles in the bathrooms.

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2,300 invited guests came to Jorge’s for an unofficial opening, an opportunity for the waiters to practice what their bosses and colleagues had preached. The mood was festive. There was a lot of talking.

On Thursday, June 27, the good times really started.

“I told my staff, this is the fun part,” Citrano said. “After three weeks of training, you can apply what you’ve learned, show confidence in the menu and check on customers.”

“Nothing is better than making people smile and filling their bellies. After the first day, I had 100 texts waiting for me. It was heartwarming. Preparing to open took a lot of time, a lot of time away from family. But when you step back and see the texts and Facebook posts from people who wanted to say something nice but didn’t have to… We are grateful that people recognize our vision for Jorge’s and the amount of love and support we have received through social media, news media and good old word of mouth.”

Sammy Citrano, who owns a stake in George’s Restaurant at Speight Avenue and Hewitt Drive, said he approached this project with one sure knowledge: Any Tex-Mex or authentic Mexican restaurant, or some variation thereof, must offer good chips and salsa, beef enchiladas and margaritas. Anything beyond those three staples is sauce, so to speak, and Jorge’s has served a heaping helping of seafood entrees, desserts and specialties, crafted with guidance from trusted restaurant industry experts.

Chicken steaks and pork chops also have their place at Jorge’s.

The most popular options so far have been the triple dip boards, poblano and lump crab dip, Al Carbon steak and chicken fajitas, El George and El Jorge margaritas, barbacoa brisket enchiladas with mole, Del Mar seafood enchiladas and cuatro leches with churros, Kyle Citrano said.

Waco diners have their favorites, says Sammy Citrano, who knows that locals traditionally flock to new restaurants during the opening phase and check out the new scene in town before returning to their usual spots.

“We just want to be part of the rotation,” Citrano said, rejecting the notion that Jorge’s will outshine other Tex-Mex restaurants.

Mary Lou Castillo, a member of Casa de Castillo’s family of owners, said Jorge’s expands Waco’s restaurant offerings.

“This is a great thing,” she said. “We’re Tex-Mex. They’re offering a whole new Mexican cuisine. I’ve heard great things. I’m happy for Sammy and for Waco.”

She hasn’t visited Jorge because she works seven days a week and doesn’t have time.

Her business is “phenomenal,” she added, “We’re working on 102 years.”

Jorge’s Cantina will be open on Sundays, which the Citranos will see as a departure from the policy at both George’s locations. The Citranos, whose owners and management include Kevin Chirafis, Chris Cady and Sean McGuire, said market and economic conditions prompted the decision.


Jorge’s has opened in the former location of El Paso Mexican Grill at 4225 Franklin Ave.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

George’s opens early to serve breakfast, and the doors don’t close until midnight. It offers takeout service and catering. With such a busy workday, the Citranos said, employees need Sundays off and get it. Jorge’s is not a breakfast spot and won’t be doing to-go orders for now.

Jorge’s is taking reservations and will continue to do so. The approach will streamline operations, the Citranos say, reducing or eliminating wait times and allowing guests to enjoy all Jorge’s offers.

But the process was “a little tricky” at first, says Kyle Citrano. Some potential guests were surprised and then “confused” when they learned the facts.

“Reservations have helped us plan for guest numbers, adjust the pace of our kitchen, and give our staff a chance to gain trust. And hopefully, our customers have had a wonderful experience rather than one full of long waits, mistakes, and bad memories,” Citrano says of this approach.


The Citrano family, veterans of the Waco restaurant scene, are partners in Jorge’s.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

The Citranos have transformed the former El Paso Mexican Grill building, owned by Sammy Citrano, into what they call a dream come true. They didn’t want just another Tex-Mex restaurant. They wanted something special that would turn heads. They wouldn’t skimp on anything, Kyle Citrano said, “because people notice.” Employees would make flour and corn tortillas on site. A debate over green salsa or red salsa ended in a tie, and they agreed to serve both along with chips.


Business at Jorge’s has been booming over the past week.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

Jorge’s is 11,700 square meters, larger than the 9,000 square meter George’s stores, each about a 10-minute drive away. The renovation took about 10 months, although preparatory work began earlier.

Citranos now employs more than 500 people at its three locations.

“We employ young, old and middle-aged people, from 18 to 60 or 70,” said Kyle Citrano. “Another restaurant means growth in our own management team and opens up opportunities for us to become managers. It also means we’re exposing ourselves to all of Waco and to other people. The next opportunity may be with someone they served or greeted at the bar.”