PEORIA, AZ — It may not have been the grand opening they had initially planned, but Jorge Cota and Meliza Miranda were not going to let a global pandemic stop them from opening their restaurant nor be able to share their food with their neighborhoods.
The brother-sister duo opened their restaurant, Mochilero Kitchen, last week near 67th Avenue and Happy Valley Road in Peoria.
"Some people say we’re crazy, but I honestly think we’re really lucky. We’re really blessed, honestly. The way things worked out it couldn’t have worked out any better. At the same time, it couldn’t have worked out any worse," said Cota during a recent interview with ABC15.
While a lot of restaurants made a decision to temporarily close because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and others are working around the clock just to keep their doors open, Cota said it was not a matter of if they would open, but how they would open.
Instead of serving their customers in the dining room as originally planned, they reworked their menu to make it to-go friendly and to ensure their food would travel without compromising its quality.
And after seven days in business, the community has given them a warm welcome.
"Everybody was really excited. We all had that sense of nervousness before. It was a little surreal to be honest with you. I was scared. You never know if you’re going to have a huge outcome, lots of people coming in [or a] little bit of people," said Miranda. "It was surprising, ya know, when we started receiving calls, people started to get in line, and the outcome was great. We had a great outcome and we were so thankful for the people that came to support us."
It has also allowed them to continue to bring on more staff.
WHAT'S ON THE MENU?
"We're taking people on a backpacking trip through all the regions of Mexico, through different states, and being able to identify different things that people didn’t really realize were part of the cuisine to begin with," said Cota.
The current menu features a variety of pork, chicken, beef, and vegetable tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and bowls. View menu.
One of their popular tacos has been the Papa Brava Taco, which has Yukon gold potatoes, herbs, Oaxaca cheese, house-made salsa, and cabbage.
In Spanish, mochilero means "backpacker." The restaurant's name was inspired by a month-long trip Cota and his sister, Miranda, took last year to Mexico where they backpacked across the country, visiting 22 states, to learn about the different cultures, ingredients, and cuisines.
"One example of that is like in Oaxaca you have a lot of delicious moles that you can taste. People usually just think it's one mole. There’s a variety of moles that you can eat. They’re derived from a specific region, a specific place, so we wanted to understand why is it that they cook it the way they cook it," Miranda said.
"Not only that, but what those dishes mean to them and why it is so special to them," Cota added.
WHY THEY OPENED IN PEORIA
The idea to open a restaurant in Peoria began about four years ago, Miranda said. Both she and her brother live in Peoria.
"We realized we don’t have options of where to dine out really. We had a few chains and we would have to drive to Scottsdale or Phoenix to get authentic food, independently owned restaurants that we love to support. Then we thought this is the spot we need to be," she said.
IF YOU GO:
6791 W Happy Valley Rd #100
Peoria AZ 85383