Joel Hart’s menu is an inspired fusion of Latin based cuisine influenced by a month long trip to Mexico when he was just 13 years old. Hart’s Mesa is not your typical Mexican restaurant. If you are looking for chips and salsa on every table or a mariachi band, then head to a chain restaurant.

capital medical centerWhen Joel returned from his Mexico trip, he began cooking to recreate the delicious flavors of the food he loved to eat while traveling through Oaxaca and Mexico City. Joel explains that he opened the restaurant to “create a dynamic menu to showcase the flavors of my past.” Hart’s Mesa, which began as a café serving breakfast and lunch, is now open for dinner Friday and Saturday nights.

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Owner Joel Hart, Erica Lucerio and son, Silas, are pictured on the front steps of his West Olympia restaurant.

Joel is a local resident. Growing up on Olympia’s west side, he attended Garfield Elementary, Jefferson Middle School and South Puget Sound Community College. Joel’s formal culinary education began at the New Market Skills Center. He worked in restaurants all through his 20’s honing his skills. The highlight of this period was his three years in Spain, beginning in 2002. Here, he spent time with great Spanish chefs and developed a love for Mediterranean and Latin based cuisines. Hart has been involved in several successful restaurants including Dino’s coffee shop, Page Street Café and the New American.

The current site of Hart’s Mesa has intrigued him since it was Eddie’s General Store from 1975 – 2002. Joel has always dreamed of opening a restaurant using his extensive background and home-style recipes in this location. The Rogers Street building is on the Washington Historic Register and has housed several restaurants since it was originally built in 1902 as the Westside Grocery.

Last April, Hart opened the restaurant specializing in traditional Mexican cooking with a Latin flavor. He has found the perfect blend of familiar tastes combined with new and exciting flavors. Full disclosure – for the sole purpose of food photography, Chef Hart prepared a Chipotle Benedict for me and I am still dreaming about it.

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Chef Joel Hart gazes at his fan favorite dish, Chipotle Benedict.

Hart uses all locally sourced ingredients in his unique and varied menu. My benedict was built on cornmeal sopes made from masa provided by the Jalisco Tortilla Company in Shelton. In addition to the masa, Jalisco provides all the tortillas used at the restaurants. Hart stirs up the salsas in house and purchases seafood from Olympia Seafood Company in downtown Olympia. Meats for dishes such as the Sous Vide Tex-Mex are sourced at Home Meat Service in Shelton. Hart’s Mesa even has its own devoted plot for produce at Best Family Farms in Chehalis.

Hart’s Mesa employs 15 people directly, but Joel is providing indirect jobs for many others in the community by using almost exclusively local vendors. His love for the area fuels his desire to support other local businesses.

Joel understands that his guests demand variety. He gladly provides an extensive menu list of both vegan and gluten-free items, including sweet potato huevos rancheros. I have my eye on this dish for my next visit.

Hart’s Mesa has found a niche, giving Olympia a great Mexican restaurant with a Latin flair. The unique location lends a homey ambiance in a neighborhood just up the hill from downtown Olympia.

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Kombucha and Northwest brews are on tap at Hart’s Mesa.

Hart’s Mesa
903 Rogers Street in Olympia
Serving breakfast and lunch
Tuesday – Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Open for dinner Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Call 360-878-8490 for reservations.

The four-course dinner includes soup, salad, entree and dessert on a menu that changes weekly. Check their Facebook page for the most current offerings. The menu includes a variety of flavors and choices. Hart’s Mesa serves beer and wine featuring several Northwest beers on tap. Local kombucha, freshly squeezed juices and mixed drinks made from sake, such as sake sangria round out the drink menu.

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