This onetime Akron taco trailer has grown into a restaurant with food that has cooked up national attention.
Earlier this month, Taqueria La Loma, on Akron’s east side at 459 Darrow Road, made “The Most Popular Taco Spot in Every State” list on the Buzzfeed news/entertainment website.
Buzzfeed says it compiled the list with a big assist from Yelp, the restaurant review site. Yelp came up with the list using a mathematical formula taking into account the number of reviews and eateries’ star ratings.
The reviews touting the place’s authentic Mexican eats “have been a blessing for us,” said La Loma co-owner Blanca Saucedo, a native of Mexico City.
One Yelp reviewer gave the place a 5-star rating and raved that La Loma’s tacos and chimichangas (fried burritos) “tasted and [were] served like you’d get on the street in Mexico.”
Indeed the restaurant is a modest joint in a small strip plaza. Inside, faux stone and an awning over a counter give the place an outdoor feel. You order at a counter with a view of the kitchen.
Cesar Martinez, who is a part owner of the operation, often takes the orders. He is the nephew of Saucedo’s husband German Guijosa, a La Loma co-owner.
Tables, painted with Mexican scenes, are in the brightly lit dining room on one side of the counter.
On the other side is the La Loma Mexican grocery, which by local standards is not modest. It’s unusual in that it features a large meat case, where butcher Vicente Martinez cuts and marinates meat specifically for Mexican dishes. There’s even house-made chorizo sausage for sale.
There’s also a fajita mix — raw chicken with olive oil, peppers, onions and seasonings.
The store is jam-packed, but well-organized. One aisle is chock-full of candy and cookies. Dried chilis, canned beans, other savory fill another aisle.
Toward the back, big tamale pots loom on a high shelf. Popular Jarritos-brand and other sodas, as well as juices are neatly lined up on shelves near the front.
Cold Mexican beer also is available in the store as well as the restaurant.
Guijosa is the main cook. “It’s his recipes,” Saucedo said, “recipes from his grandmother [Petra Velazquez],” who died earlier this year.
The restaurant menu is limited. She said she and her husband didn’t see any need to offer a load of dishes, noting that the small taco trailer’s short menu was a success.
The sit-down eatery replaced the trailer in 2014.
Tacos ($1.50 each) are street-style, made with small corn tortillas that Saucedo drives to Columbus to fetch.
Tacos and other dishes come with choice of meat: al Pastor — marinated pork that is cooked on a large vertical rotisserie — barbacoa (marinated beef), chicken, chorizo, tongue, ground beef and diced grilled steak.
Other items that come with choice of meat include: flautas — four corn tortillas, with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and sour cream ($6.50), quesadilla ($5) and chimichangas (two for $7.50). Sides such as beans, rice and guacamole also are on the menu.
Fans of menudo — a traditional Mexican soup made with beef stomach (tripe) and red chilies — will have to wait for colder weather for the soup to appear on the menu.
Perhaps the most popular regular menu item is the torta ($7), a grilled oblong sandwich roll stuffed with meat and toppings.
Torta is the fave of Colin Abell, 20, who is studying education at Kent State University.
“It’s like a sandwich with a Mexican twist,” said Abell, who was at La Loma last week with fellow fans of the place, his brother Colton Abell, 18, and friend JonMichael Weigel, 18.
“The kicker is how fresh everything is,” Abell said. “Everything is made right there.”
Abiel Aguilar, 26, an Akron resident from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, also is a torta fan and vouches for the food’s authenticity.
“It’s real Mexican food,” he said. “They actually put in a lot of real Mexican ingredients.”
Saucedo said she and her husband opened their grocery — with the trailer out in front — in 2009. Initially, they were in a spot down the street from the current site.
Saucedo had been a co-owner of Mexican groceries in Columbus, where she met Guijosa, who had worked as a cook at a taco place. He also is a native of Mexico City.
A relative of Guijosa living in Akron had suggested there was a demand in this area for a Mexican grocery that offered meat.
Revenues from the taco trailer quickly exceeded those of the grocery store so the couple decided to find a place nearby that was big enough for a restaurant. They moved to 459 Darrow in 2014.
Sales have ticked up after the BuzzFeed list hit, with the place seeing new customers. But the BuzzFeed effect could be temporary. Saucedo’s aim is to turn first-timers into regulars.
Mary Beth Kalal of Akron was inspired to visit after she saw the BuzzFeed article. She said she’ll be back.
From the outside, Kalal said, there was nothing that stood out about the place.
“But,” she said, “it turned out to be a real gem in disguise.”
The Friends of Main Library in Akron will have a big cookbook sale — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the lobby outside the Library Shop at Main at 60 S. High St. in downtown Akron.
Most hardbacks will be priced at $2 and most paperbacks will go for $1. Some coffee-table style books will be priced at $5. Some heavily used books will go for 25 cents.
Parking in the deck (enter off High Street) attached to the main library is free on Saturdays.
The nonprofit Friends of Main Library, has received “more cookbooks than we can handle inside the limited space inside the shop,” explained Jim Switzer, a member of the group that operates the shop and supports the main Akron-Summit Public Library.
The new Burntwood Tavern in Fairlawn — in the former Max & Erma’s restaurant on West Market Street — opened on Monday.
Kitchen hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Bar hours will be 11 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.
Burntwood, a restaurant group based in Chagrin Falls, features “American fare and pub grub” along with craft beers and cocktails.
The new Fairlawn spot is the second Summit County Burntwood location; the other is in Cuyahoga Falls.
The Burntwood opening follows the opening, a little to the west, of Bomba Tacos & Rum (in Copley Township) and Melt (in Bath Township). The Bomba is part of a Beachwood restaurant group and the Melt is the first Summit County location for the Cleveland-headquartered chain.
Celebrate Polish Oktoberfest at the Polish American Citizens Club of Akron from 5 to 10 p.m. Oct. 8.
The event will feature dancing to polka music and homemade eats.
Pierogi, Polish sausage, cabbage rolls and more will be available for purchase.
The Ed Zalar band will play.
Admission is $5. Tickets will be available at the door and can be purchased in advance by calling 330-253-0496. The club is at 472 E. Glenwood Ave.
Proceeds will be used to pay for repairs that have been made to the club’s roof.
This is not really a food event, but, hey, it’s happening at a grocery store and I figured Cleveland Browns fans would want to know.
Browns running back Duke Johnson, who gained 80 yards Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, will be at the Stow Giant Eagle at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
He will sign autographs and meet with fans at 6:30 p.m. at the store at 4300 Kent Road in the Stow Community Center shopping center.
Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr., who played three positions for the team on Sunday, was at the Fairlawn Giant Eagle earlier this week.
While the Browns lost in overtime to the Dolphins on Sunday, both players’ performance is offering fans some hope for the team this season.
Pittsburgh-headquartered Giant Eagle says it spent $20 million on significant renovations to the two stores.
Eat Local Week in downtown Akron began Monday and continues through Saturday.
The event, featuring restaurants offering local food in featured dishes, is this year’s version of Downtown Akron restaurant week.
The five participating restaurants are Crave, DBA, Jilly’s Music Room, Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar and 3 Point.
This year’s Downtown Akron Restaurant Week has been dubbed Eat Local Week.
To see menus, go to the Countryside Conservancy Facebook page, which teamed up with Downtown Akron partnership for this year’s event.
Next week, Flury’s, the breakfast and lunch place in Cuyahoga Falls, will be the lone participant in Eat Local Week for areas outside of downtown Akron.
• Cara Mangini, author of The Vegetable Butcher, will discuss tips to grow, shop, cook and eat seasonally at 7 p.m. Friday at Spice Acres, a Countryside Initiative farm at 9570 Riverview Road in Brecksville. Tickets are $20, or $50 with a meet-and-greet at 6 p.m. To register, go to www.cvcountryside.org and look under “Events & Workshops.” For information, call Countryside at 330-657-2542.
• The public is invited to a dinner at the Italian American Citizens Club, 1521 Ninth St. in Cuyahoga Falls, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday to help kick off Italian Heritage Month in October. This club, tucked in a residential area, is not be confused with the Italian American Club in Akron’s North Hill. Cost of the dinner is $7. It will feature spaghetti and meatballs, salad, bread and butter, cake and coffee. Cost is $7. A cash bar will be available.
• The annual Something Russian Festival at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Suffield Township runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Oct. 5. There will be Russian and ethnic food, music, dancing, tours of the church and more. Go to www.somethingrussian.com for information. St. Nicholas Orthodox Church is at 755 S. Cleveland Ave., at state Route 532 and U.S. Route 224.
• The second annual Cupcakes for a Cause, featuring a variety of locally made cupcakes, sparking wine and appetizers, will be 5 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Portage Country Club at 240 N. Portage Path in Akron. For reservations, call 330-869-5726 by Sept. 28. Proceeds benefit the Breast Cancer Innovation Foundation (BCIF), which raises funds to support breast cancer research. For information, go to www.BreastCancerInnovation.com.
• An Autumn Brunch will be offered by University of Akron hospitality management students from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 9 at the student-run Crystal Room Bistro in Gallucci Hall at 360 Grant St., just south of Exchange Street on Grant Street. Price is $18.95; $14.95 for ages 60 and older; and free for children 3 and younger. Parking is free. Phone 330-972-6615 for reservations.
Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or email@example.com. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook at www.facebook.com and read the Akron Dish blog at www.ohio.com/food.