Jorge Fernandes opened Iberia Restaurant in Newark, NJ, more than 40 years ago as a small luncheonette in the Brick City.
After several stages of expansion, and the opening of a second restaurant in the Garden State’s largest city, Iberia Tavern & Restaurant boasts a dining room that seats close to 300 patrons.
A few years ago, the two Iberia establishments in the Ironbound section of the city commemorated its expansion with a “lobster festival” that featured special pricing on twin lobsters prepared several different ways.
Fernandes’ success story is a testament to the possibilities that can exist even when a business launches with humble origins. And expanding small restaurants into something bigger, as well as opening a second restaurant (or more), can be facilitated with small business loans.
“For the first restaurant, I funded it through savings,” Fernandes said. “But when we expanded with the second restaurant, I financed that with some small loans.”
Iberia Peninsula is located at 63-69 Ferry St. in Newark, with Iberia Tavern & Restaurant located nearby in the same “Down Neck” neighborhood at 80-84 Ferry St.
“We have better facilities for the customers now,” Fernandes said. “We have more parking, a bigger dining room and a new banquet hall upstairs.”
Iberia has private parking for close to 500 customers–no small feat in a city where parking is at a premium, to say the least.
Iberia Tavern has made a name for itself with classic, traditional dishes, including shrimp in garlic sauce; Paella a Valenciana (a seafood combination dish with rice); and chorico (Portuguese sausage). Iberia is also renowned for its uncommonly hefty portion sizes, and the menu has grown with additional meat, fish and seafood dishes. Recent expansions have made Iberia Tavern bigger and better, doubling its original size. Additional rooms have been added to host private parties.
When the demand for Iberia Tavern’s Spanish and Portuguese food outstripped the ability of the original restaurant to meet all of it, the palatial “sister” restaurant Iberia Peninsula was opened. One of the most spectacular restaurants on the East Coast, Iberia Peninsula boasts Cathedral ceilings, an expansive stainless-steel topped bar and large barbecue pits. There are two large dining rooms. Both above and below the main restaurant are several rooms of varying sizes for private parties. Iberia caters both cocktail style and buffet style banquets.
Iberia’s trademark fare is Rodizio–10 different selections. The waiter brings patrons skewers of barbecued chicken, filet mignon, pork, turkey, ribs, sausage and more. The Parrilhada –a heaping seafood platter for two, prepared with lobster, jumbo shrimp, clams, mussels, garlic shrimp, calamari, flounder and saffron rice–and whole lobsters, 1-6 lbs., gigantic 24 oz. lobster tails, salt cod, steaks and clams in garlic sauce are also immensely popular menu items. The cuisine is complemented by a large selection of regional wines from Portugal and Spain, as well as wines from France, Italy, Chile and Australia and domestic vintages from California.
“Food costs have become very high,” Fernandes said. “Now that we have expanded, we are as big as we want to get. We like where we are now.”
For entrepreneurs and small businessmen and women everywhere, the trajectory of Iberia Restaurants in Newark, and their evolution from small local luncheonette to two regionally renowned restaurants, can serve as an inspiration to anyone with a business and a dream of realizing spectacular success if they make the right decisions and get the right funding.