Let the good times roll
September 23, 2017
I walk into "Noemi's Pupuseria." Salvadorian and Guatemala food is their specialty. As a young lad I rode ancient buses, gasoline trucks and a cramped van throughout Guatemala and El Salvador. I still have a lingering passion for both.
On my first visit to Noemi's, I told her how much I enjoyed the 3 pupusas I'd had. "I'm so happy when people like my food," she said, her face aglow.
It's 9:30 AM, a week later. Melissa Dunbar greets me as I walk in. Melissa is an irrepressible blond. She manages the petite lounge in front and has her own set of regulars. We go into the tastefully decorated dining room. It has an arboretum on one side and ocher painted walls with tasteful Latino paintings and a luxurious mirror on the other. Ah, the star of the day arrives. She's dressed in a red and black uniform. Then a curious thing happens. The telephone starts ringing off the wall. The restaurant has only been open a month. I get the strange sensation cosmic forces are at work here.
I query the telephones ringing. Noemi's face brightens. "We have seven customers who come every day for lunch. Their food is on the table waiting for them when they arrive. We have construction workers, professionals and families with well-behaved children," she says. Getting to know Noemi is easy. She's pleasantly sure of herself and has a way of talking to people, not at them, and she always says thank you. There is a vitality and energy about this dining establishment that is heroic. I sit there and stare at this remarkable woman. "This is my dream," she says and there's no denying it, and truthfully, at this moment I'm living her dream along with her. Nice people do exist.
"How many tables do you have?" I ask. Thirteen. "I love that light on the ceiling, don't you?" she asks me. "I'm the cooker but sometimes a waitress, or clean the bathrooms," she says. She works 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.
Cindi Lopez, her daughter comes in from the kitchen. She's a very attractive young woman. Noemi makes sure I know that Cindy, Alma, and Gardenia help her in the kitchen.
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Guadalupe Lopez, Noemi's husband joins us. He's suave and refined, while Noemi is that loving aunt you always wanted. Guadalupe explains the nuances between Mexican food and Guatemala and Salvadorian food. Some of the dishes are the same, but Mexican food is heavy on the spices and Noemi's menu isn't. Noemi lovingly explains how she uses each ingredient that is used on the menu; pork, cheese, tomatoes, etc.; only fresh ingredients go into her creations and of equal importance is their presentation. "Aren't they beautiful?" She asked.
Truthfully, "Noemi's" is a comfortable, ingratiating place to enjoy individually prepared food. Noemi's is the place to take the kids or to even fall in love.
Ron Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org