Featured on Arizona’s PBS “Check Please”
Home, Work, and Family - Asi es la Vida
- Carolyn Lavender
Irving Rodriguez has owned the upscale Mexican Restaurant, Asi es la Vida for 8 years, since 2007. The restaurant has been in the family since 2002, and was started by a family friend in1992. Such is Life, was owned by Moises Treves, who got his start cooking traditional Mexican cuisine in southern Mexico in the 1970’s. At first he was selling food on the street out of a station wagon. When he told his story to a favorite customer, she planted the seed for him to have a restaurant by leaving a note and $500. He moved to Phoenix and is credited with creating upscale Mexican food in the valley. The building that houses Asi es la Vida, at 24th street and Whitton, was originally a house and was re-built in the late 80’s.
For Irving Rodriguez, Asi es la Vida is a family teamwork experience. With Irving’s brother and sister working at the restaurant, they get along as they work together and play together.He likes to create an environment where his employees stay for a long time. Irving also considers himself one of the employees and is able to step in help with any job, including cooking. The menu is limited for consistency and quality control. Irving considers it a personal approach to food and likes to showcase the flavors and texture. He emphasizes quality and freshness over quantity. The menu features a daily chef special.
In Mexico,Irving was raised around food. At age 5 or 6 he was sent to his Grandpa’s businesses to help out, but it was more fun than work. Irving became so comfortable cooking he does not used measurements. It is a state of mind, customizing instead of standardizing. Originally he thought he was headed to world of finance and corporate America because he likes to make things happen. He was about to finish his degree, whenthe financial crisis made him re-evaluate. His Dad didn’t want to continue with the restaurant, and after 2 days of thinking,Irving decided to take over the business. With some initial regret, he is now happy, and states it has turned out better than expected. Much of his business is word of mouth since he does not advertise outside of Loma Linda. Irving has been living in the neighborhood since 2008 and just bought a house that is 2 blocks from the restaurant. He likes living in Loma Linda because it a sense of community that he did not experience in north Phoenix. His philosophy is that if he is true to himself, he will make the right choices. He wants to workhard now, and then have a family later.
The interior décor seems to always be changing, and Irving admits he likes change. Originally the walls were decorated with murals commissioned by local artists. Now he commissions painted copies of the works of the famous Mexican artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Years ago a customer gave him a portrait of Frida, which got a lot of attention from diners, and some, would try to buy it. Now he sells the paintings if someone asks, and then just commissions new ones. His interest in art helps make the culinary an experience for all 5 senses.
The outside of the restaurant cannot be missed due to the bright fuscia-magenta color. Irving looked along 24th street and chose a color he did not see anywhere else. He knew his customers sometimes had trouble remembering the long Spanish name, Asi es la Vida, but they simply had to look for the brightest building on the street. If you can’t remember the name, you will remember the color. Find your way to Asi es la Vida, and you will be glad you did.