Lisa Wong Biography
Lisa Wong is a leading restaurateur with more than 30 years of experience in the food service industry and the founder of a number of successful restaurant concepts in San Antonio. Her restaurant legacy includes: Lisa’s Mexican Restaurant, opened at age 18 with $7,000 of her college money (1981-1997); Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina in Southtown (Since 1992); Rey Willy’s Hamburgers y Más (2000-2001); ChinaLatina (2002-2010); Rosario’s at the San Antonio International Airport (Since 2003); and Ácenar on the River Walk (Since 2005). In 2010, she introduced R Sala Bebida Botana Bar in Terminal B at the San Antonio International Airport with partner HMSHost Corp., which also included a renovation/expansion of the Rosario’s Aiport location. She has also operated a concessions stand at The Alamodome since 1997. Most recently, she opened her third Rosario’s location – Rosario’s Mexican Restaurant y Lounge – on the North Side on March 31, 2014..
Born and raised in San Antonio of Mexican and Chinese descent to Isabel Sanchez and Samuel Wong, Lisa embraced the best of both cultures, inheriting Grandpa Wong’s entrepreneurial spirit. As a restaurateur, he prepared the finest Chinese and American food in the kitchen of Sung Lee Café while her abuelita Mama Luisa prepared incredible Mexican food in her kitchen for the family every Sunday afternoon. The memories created in these two kitchens from two distinct cultures produced a young visionary whose character and drive have been the cornerstone in building a successful restaurant career that spans three decades.
In May 1992, Lisa acquired Rosario’s from bankruptcy court and reestablished it as an anchor tenant in the historic Southtown/King William area in San Antonio. In July 1999, she moved the original Rosario’s location two blocks north to accommodate her growing business, tripling its size. The 10,076-square-foot space has Rosario’s trademark “loud and fun atmosphere.” The award-winning menu combines traditional south-of-the-border dishes with authentic house specialties, all prepared with a contemporary twist. Rosario’s underwent a remodel in 2010 with award-winning designer Jill Giles giving the space a more contemporary Mexican feel. The Rosario’s North Side location formerly housed the old Maggie’s and Barbaresco restaurants. The 13,000+ square-foot building was completely renovated to capture the Rosario’s spirit with the help of local artist Andy Benavidez, creating a contemporary and spacious feel.
Over the years, the Rosario’s brand has received rave reviews among national and local media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Southern Living, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Hispanic Magazine, Texas Monthly, San Antonio Magazine and the San Antonio Express-News, to name a few.
Since the beginning, Rosario’s has maintained its reputation as a favorite meeting place for neighborhood residents, the local arts crowd, tourists, politicians, celebrities and other luminaries. Rosario’s also showcases the finest Latino art collections and features live Latino music on the weekends.
As an active community leader, Lisa has served on the board of directors for many worthwhile organizations, including the YWCA West Side Branch, Southtown Urban Main Street Program, The Children’s Shelter, the San Antonio Express-News Community Advisory Board and the San Antonio River Walk Expansion Committee. Currently, she is a member of the San Antonio Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier and an Alumna of Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas.
Her philanthropic contributions locally include a $10,000 donation to The Children’s Shelter as part of Rosario’s 10th anniversary (2002) and $25,000 for Katrina relief efforts in the restaurant’s inaugural ComidAid campaign (2005). Lisa is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio (1981).
Lisa’s Awards and Recognitions
- The It List (Tex-Mex Goddess), San Antonio Magazine (October 2013)
- Business Women’s Award, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (2013)
- San Antonio Business Journal Women’s Leadership Award – Entrepreneur category (2012)
- Brenda Vickrey Johnson Award – Small Business category, Greater Chamber of Commerce and Ford Motor Co., Women’s Opportunity Week (2012)
- Girl Scouts 100th Anniversary Local Leadership Alumnas, San Antonio Woman Magazine (2012)
- 11th Annual Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards, Visionary category, NAWBO-SA (2011)
- Women We Love, San Antonio Magazine (2011)
- Amazing Energy Award, CPS Energy, Hispanic Organization for Public Employees (HOPE)
- Top of the Food Chain: Women Who Rule the Restaurant Roost, San Antonio Woman Magazine (2005)
- National Minority Retail Firm of the Year, Minority Business Development Agency (2002)
- Entrepreneur Award – La Prensa de San Antonio Newspaper (2000)
- Leadership San Antonio Class, Greater Chamber and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (1996-1997)
- Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Small Business category, Ernst & Young (1996
- 40 under 40 Award – San Antonio Business Journal (1995)