Taqueria food stand looks forward to its opening day

Healthy helpings of hot dogs, fry bread and burgers are quintessential parts of any Wrangell Fourth of July, but this year the community's palates were graced with a taste of something different -Mexican food. Estevan's Taqueria, a food stand operated by Mariana Sausedo and David McHolland, served up its first delicious meals on July 3 and 4.

Once its state permits are approved - hopefully later this month - the stand will open in its permanent spot behind TK's Mini Mart.

Sausedo created the taqueria in honor of her brother, Estevan, who passed away in 2019. It will serve the food that the siblings grew up eating while they were children in Visalia, California.

She arrived in Wrangell in October 2022 after working at the Alaska Marine Highway System around Southeast for over five years. Throughout her time in Alaska, she missed the flavors of home and wanted to start a taqueria - a Mexican restaurant specializing in tacos and burritos - but logistical concerns always got in the way.

"It was something I wanted to do since the moment I came to Alaska," she said. "I never thought I could do it here because I thought it wasn't possible, when it came to finances and where we could put it."

Now that she has a food stand to sell from - constructed atop a trailer by McHolland - and a convenient location, that dream is on its way to becoming a reality.

Sausedo wants her food to be "authentic," but also recognizes that authenticity is a nuanced concept, especially when it comes to regional and ethnic cuisines. "That word itself - 'authentic' -the thing is, if you go to Mexico, that food is different than if you go to California or Texas," she explained. "As soon as they cross that border, they change it for the people who are there. In Mexico, they don't have quesadillas. ... I'm from California. The food that I grew up on ... once it comes to the Central Valley, it is changed up a little bit."

Her aim is not to make authentic Mexican food like they do in Mexico, but to share the dishes she and her brother enjoyed in California, like handmade guacamole, sweet and spicy drinks and her personal favorite - the carne asada burrito.

The taqueria's permanent menu is not yet set, but Sausedo anticipates serving items similar to the ones she made for the Fourth of July. That menu included ceviche, mango and pineapple chamoy drinks, and tacos and burritos - each with a choice of carne asada or carnitas.

Many people were curious about the unfamiliar menu items, but after trying them, were fully convinced of their deliciousness, Sausedo recalled. "So many people came back the next day. It was really nice. I don't know why I was so surprised that I got so much support, but I'm fairly new to this town. I was kind of scared that, if people don't really know you, they don't go to you." After selling out of all her menu items two days in a row, she was able to put those fears to rest.

Eventually, she hopes to include photos of each item on her menu so that customers can have a better sense of what they're ordering.

Chamoy drinks are sweet, spicy and fruity beverages that use a combination of tajin seasoning and chamoy - a sweet and sour condiment made of dried chilies. "On a hot day? Oooh. It's really good," she said.

Ceviche is an appetizer that usually consists of raw seafood marinated in lime, but Sausedo's version is boiled for the sake of food safety. She sources the shrimp that she uses for her ceviche locally, from Jason Rooney.

"My ceviche is something that is really popular in my family," she said. The dish was a favorite of Estevan's and its widespread acclaim "started this whole thing," she explained. Friends, family members and her partner, McHolland, would tell her that she should try selling her ceviche, which was part of the motivation for opening the taqueria.

"When I met David, I always made him Mexican food and he really hyped me up about it," she said. "He was one of the people that was like, 'you need to make something here.'"

The taqueria will provide Sausedo with "the opportunity to keep my brother with me," she added. "I don't have any other siblings. It was just me and my brother, so it was really traumatic to lose him. Naming it (the taqueria) after him was such a great feeling. It's just been this overwhelming support. ... I never want people to forget who he is and I don't want to forget."


Reader Comments(0)

Rendered 06/21/2024 14:09