BY JENNIFER GOLDSBERRY
Don’t let the name fool you; Mr. Delicious is run and owned by native Mexican women.
Alma Aguilera had been living in the area for 16 years, when she split from the father of her children. Up until that point, she had been raising her children, and she suddenly found herself as the single breadwinner for her family.
Her mother gave her an idea: open up a restaurant with the money she had. Alma had never worked in a restaurant before, but her mother had. At first, it was a struggle to even land a lease for the building because she was opening a restaurant for the first time, and most leases in the area would only take applicants with more than one restaurant in their name.
“My mom is always pushing me,” she said. “She told me we can do it.”
When they finally found their place at 1137 West 1700 South, there was still a lot of work to do. The owners needed sheetrock, insulation, and flooring installed before Alma could move in. By the time they were done, and Alma had decorated and painted it to her liking, it was June 20, 2020.
Opening a restaurant in the middle of a global pandemic might have killed other businesses, but Alma pushed through. She leaned into her community in Syracuse because she knew how friendly and supportive they’d been when she moved into a new home as a single mother.
“Even though they have another restaurant, a chain restaurant right in front of their faces, they chose me because I’m their neighbor,” she said. “It was surprising.”
With Alma in the kitchen beside her mother, and her brother and daughter at the cash register, they run a full-fledged family restaurant, complete with traditional family recipes. Among them is the discada, a dish that is so near and dear to the Aguilera family, you won’t find it anywhere else. It’s a Mexican stew with pork, steak, sausage, ham, chorizo, tomato, and onions. At Mr. Delicious, you can get it with rice and beans as a side. Their enchiladas, chimichangas, and massive burritos are also popular.
Every dish is made to order. Every dish is also made in-house. You can’t find any cans in the kitchen. Alma admits it’s a lot of work to make everything from scratch, but it makes a noticeable difference in the flavor of the dishes.
Now, her five children are proud of the family business. They helped name the business, they promote the restaurant, and one of her children, a ten-year-old daughter, says she can’t wait to inherit the business.