Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

Latitude by JR opens in Old Town Temecula


Last updated 1/1/2019 at 11:10am

Jeff Pack

Chef Jason Rivas and his wife, Jakota, are the co-owners and managers of Latitude by JR, a new California cuisine-inspired restaurant in Old Town Temecula.

Chef Jason Rivas and his wife, Jakota, just needed to make a move – even if opening their own restaurant in Old Town Temecula was a scary one.

"I was scared to death of him not working for someone else and not earning a steady paycheck," Jakota Rivas said. "So, the idea of branching out on our own and not even get paid at all, scared me and I wasn't ready.

"He's been ready for a while," she said.

After running the highly popular pop-up dinner service, Dinner by JR, for the past year, the duo recently opened Latitude by Jr on Fifth Street.

"It took us a year," Jason Rivas said. "We left (Temecula Creek Inn) in November, and we opened up in October. We really were motivated; we really pushed and let everything happen."

Ending up Old Town Temecula almost didn't happen, though.

"We were negotiating another location over by the mall," Jakota Rivas said. "And we went to get some advice from our pastor, and he said, 'Tuck your tails and run, do not go into that deal,' based on the loan we were getting and the lease we were going to have to sign and the location and everything."

Next, they met with a commercial Realtor who listened to their concept and story and told them they belonged in Old Town and that she knew of a restaurant owner looking to sell his business.

Long story short, they moved into their restaurant and opened Oct. 1.

They both said they had a well-planned idea of what they wanted the restaurant to look like and the feel they needed to create.

"Then Oct. 1 hit and we were like, 'Where are we at, what do we do?'" Jason Rivas said. "The list of to-dos kept growing before we could check anything off. We had a game plan and just like any game plan we had to modify it as we go."

Needless to say, everything at Latitude by JR is settled and business is growing steadily.

The couple said they have worked hard to create a space where diners can experience intimacy while they're dining.

The menu is based on California cuisine.

"California cuisine is taking all the things that make us as Californians, the different cultures, the different ethnicities, the different influences, the local, the sustainable, the eating healthy and just put it onto a plate and have a good time, just enjoy yourself," Jason Rivas said. "It doesn't have to be; well, it needs to be Mexican or Italian. We make a gnocchi that's handmade, just like an Italian gnocchi, but we add sage to the inside of it, put it with some pumpkin and pair it with a brown butter sauce.

"Why? Because we can. In California, we eat what we like and how we like it because we can. That's what it's about for us. Our food is an identity of who we are as a state," he said.

Latitude by JR offers an Afternoon Meal, Evening Meal, Lazy Brunch, Social Hour and Fin menus.

The afternoon menu features items such as the Thai chicken ban mi and chicken mushroom wrap sandwiches, salads such as the tuna poke and special pumpkin, and plates like the quinoa bowl and "spaghetti" squash.

The evening menu features added items such as the Mediterranean Skuna Bay salmon, coffee-rubbed flat iron steak, sumac pork, chardonnay jidori chicken and house ramen with pork belly.

For dessert, try the Black and Tan with housemade ice cream or the snickerdoodle sand or cream soda float.

On weekends, they serve a brunch menu starting at 10 a.m. that includes a bottomless bar with beermosas, black cherry mimosas, Champagne and seasonal sangria. You can eat a days omelet, the bibimbap, a crabmeat frittata, chilaquiles and more.

Jason Rivas has more than 20 years of culinary experience and was educated at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Culinary Institute of America as well as the Culinary Vegetable Institute. He is an American Culinary Federation certified chef de cuisine and executive chef as well as a certified sommelier.

His accolades include three "Best Chefs of the Inland Empire" awards, four culinary scholarships from the American Institute of Wine and Food and was featured on an episode of "Chopped" in 2013.

Jeff Pack

The Black and Tan is one of the favorite desserts at Latitude by JR.

"For us, it's about the food: where the food comes from, how the food is treated and finally, how the food is prepared," Jason Rivas said. "Just because food comes out and it's artistic, doesn't mean that it's not approachable. All food is approachable, and all food can be artistic, but you don't have to spend tons of money or go to some fancy place to have that or to be able to showcase it."

"Approachable food at an approachable price," Jaokota Rivas said. "We wanted people to come and be able to enjoy a really good meal. We wanted to create a place that wasn't just for special occasions."

Latitude by JR is located at 41955 Fifth Street, Suite 102, in Temecula and is closed on Mondays and open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

To see the full menu, make reservations and learn more about the restaurant, visit

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]


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