“…And I Could Feel Mexico”

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I was Born and raised on the now culturally diverse “Westside” community of St. Paul, I found rescue and joy in discovering my heritage through performing Mexican folklore at the age of 8, participated in a Latina pageant, Embajadora Hispana, a leadership program for Latina youth, and most importantly, as it relates to my culture, I was blessed with the unique opportunity to grow up in one of Minnesota’s favorite Mexican market & restaurant, El Burrito Mercado.

  Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was being raised bi-culturally (in the very upper midwest),  however, what I did know at the time, was that in spite of being raised in a very, very caucasian city, (St. Paul in the 1980’s early 90’s looked very different than it does today), I was exposed to my heritage through Our Lady of Guadalupe church, Mexican Folklorico dancing, and our family business, El Burrito Mercado.  And, probably one of the most influential experiences for me culturally, was that a very young age my dad took us to his humble pueblo (small town) where he was raised in the outskirts of Aguascalientes, Mexico, and I fell in love with it!

I recall one of my first visits to the farm in Mexico, there was no toilet, just a hole in the ground, the cows were just on the other side of the ‘kitchen’ (a table, a shelf, and a stove. The ‘sink’ was a pipe sticking out of the ground with pumping water and a bucket (and I loved to wash dishes!) I loved going to the little corner tiendita (store) and exchanging the coke bottles, and getting my soda in a plastic bag with a straw.  I loved the movie in a patio or placita where the whole pueblo could go watch (and novios could hide in dark corners), I loved the smell of fresh corn tortillas and trying to help tia San Juana make fresh tortillas early in the morning. The primos (cousins) had their fun giggles at my expense!  I felt I belonged, everybody looked like me, the food was the same food my mom made at home, everybody spoke the same language my dad spoke to us, I was overwhelmed with emotions, and I could feel Mexico.  I remember one of those early trips to Aguascalientes, that I cried when we had to leave, I did not want to go back to gringolandia where hardly anybody looked like me, and where I felt like an alien in school.  I felt Mexico calling me and I went to study abroad in Guadalajara during my college years, it was another impacting life milestone.  But when I was home here in Minnesota, the only place I felt I truly belonged was at El Burrito Mercado, I was 8yrs old when my parents bought the tiny market, I’ll be 45yr old this year, it’s a part of me.

My bi-cultural life was filled with both wonderful, cultural experiences and difficult adversities, and I embrace all of it because it has brought me to the place I am now, and I am happy. I love Mexico and I love USA! I cry when I watch an Amalia Hernandez folklorico production and I am equally moved by American favorites broadways, I cried at the death of our querido Juan Gabriel and was also emotional at the death of Prince. I love tacos and I love hamburgers. I take great pride in both my Mexican-ness and my American-ness.

Though as a child and through adoloscence I struggled with my identity and finding my ‘true self’, years ago I finally understood that I didn’t have to choose one culture or the other, I learned to embrace both and it is now my compelling drive and vision for the business.  I feel lucky because I get two of everything, and you should have that too! So, I have chosen to infuse others with my passion sharing la experiencia Mexicana through El Burrito Mercado. The most rewarding comments we get from both new customers and loyal customers, is that they feel like they are somewhere else when they visit, they feel they are in Mexico, the music, the fresh authentic foods, the aromas, and the nostalgia they experience when they browse through the mercado and find ingredients and brands from Mexico and Latino America too. It’s what keeps me inspired!

And now, in my still new role as a partner legacy-owner, and CEO of El Burrito Mercado, and where I am often affectionately referred to from my staff as “La Jefa” or the boss, (to which I respond, “just call me Milissa!”), I am combining my passion for Mexican culture, my entrepreneurial spark, and my desire for improving cultural disparities & stereotypes by keeping our business model authentic, quality, and offering traditional experiencias Mexicanas.

It’s not just about the experiential aspect of our business that I enjoy, I also perfectly understand and am also motivated by the challenges of being a profitable and growing small business. Though truly, I am primarily inspired by the notion of offering something unique to people, it’s an exciting time for our family, Mexicana, women owned and operated business.

This week kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month September 15-October 15, September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. And though I celebrate our heritage every day, I recognize that not everyone else does.  I consider this a time for our country to recognize all the contributions and richness Hispanos, Latinos have gifted to our country, and to embrace that richness by celebrating, learning, and sharing. 

Our Resident Decorator/Artist Denisea Elsola is dressing up the entire mercado with festive decor, we are featuring specials to intrigue you to try something new:



If you are planning your own fiesta at home, school, or work and want some ideas on how to celebrate, email me milissa@elburritomercado.com or for help with catering food and a specialty margarita bar, contact my niece, Catering & Special Events Manager, Analita, analita@elburritomercado.com


In addition to our mercado’s already unique style and ambiance for shopping, drinking, and eating, I am so excited about our expanding El Cafe y Bar to include more events and experiences, the indoor expansion will be complete in October and La Placita Patio will open in May 2017, more details and information coming soon! 

Finally, I am thrilled to be a member of the host committee for Casa de Esperanza’s 1st Annual Latina Leadership Celebration.  If you are searching a unique opportunity to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, this is an important event to consider attending on September 30th. Details about the organization and how to attend the event are through this Honoring Latina Leadership link

Viva Mexico, visit us soon and visit us often!




35Years of Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

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It’s been a while since my last post, this summer was busy with my daughters and the business, we are celebrating our 35th anniversary at El Burrito Mercado and it’s been a great year so far!

The timing is appropriate for an update as we are in midst of Hispanic Heritage Month.  When this time of year comes around it never fails that I question, why are we recognizing Hispanic contributions this one time of year?  And inevitably, I begin to think about the politics that are associated with the holiday,(the initiating of this holiday was politically driven after all).  And mostly I find that I am interested in learning about the demographic changes in the ‘browning of America’, and I discover this kind of strange, mixed feelings of shock, happiness, then pure excitement!!! On the fast growing Hispanic population:

Today, according to the latest Census data, the Hispanic population in the United States totals 54 million, making it the largest ethnic or racial minority in the nation.[1]  Within the Hispanic population, 64 percent of Hispanics are of Mexican descent followed by Puerto Ricans at 9.4 percent, Salvadorans at 3.8 percent, Cubans at 3.7 percent, Dominicans at 3.1 percent and Guatemalans at 2.3 percent.[2] http://blog.chron.com/insidepolicy/2014/09/felices-fiestas-celebrating-hispanic-heritage-month/

This is especially exciting for me and my family when we think about how few Hispanics there were in the twin cities when El Burrito opened in 1979! It’s thrilling both as Mexicans ourselves to have a community and of course for our business, it’s been a blessing.  There is an overwhelming feeling of joy and pride that my parents too were just trying to live the ‘american dream’ as so many immigrants do.  In spite of the growth, and many changes, as a state and a nation, there are so many injustices.  There is a part of me that is called to raise my voice and take action and contribute to changes in laws and policy that impact the immigration and Hispanic business community.  It can be overwhelming, and I think I’ve finally found a balance in which I can remain active, yet do what I feel impacts positively.  I have found that by continuing to strive for our business, and to educate about our culture, build bridges, increase cultural awareness, and breakdown stereotypes, that I am also attributing to the end goal simply by staying active, caring, and sharing.

It feels great to work in a place where people feel that they are somewhere else, it’s so rewarding to hear customers comment on how much they missed their homeland products. For many years, we have been offering brands that are also now an integral part of the booming economy of which Hispanics have so abundantly attributed.  El Burrito Mercado (EBM)is celebrating 35years and to me, it is a testament of the growth and contribution to Minnesota’s Hispanic business developments.  EBM was pioneer introducing brands to Minnesota such as Goya Foods, a wonderful company that from its’ humble beginnings now is known world wide for it’s range of products for Mexican and Latino foods.  Additionally, years ago, EBM was the first in-state wholesaler of Mexican foods to mainstream markets such as Cub Foods and other supermarkets and convenience stores.  Until the big chain distributors quickly recognized the opportunity and they too began distributing Mexican wholesale and EBM went out of business.  Though now days, EBM thrives primarily on the food service side of the business and is known for offering unique ‘experiencias mexicanas’, we are still the primary Latino market for offering a variety of Latino brands such as Goya Foods, La Costenita, La Merced, and many more!

Argentinian Yerba Mate Tea

Guarana Brazilia

Guarana Brazilia
Goya Brand variety of frozen and dry.

It’s absolutely thrilling to witness the Hispanic growth in Minnesota and I am all about celebrating it!  While Hispanic Heritage Month offers the time and activities to recognize Hispanic contributions, my hope and wish is that we embrace and learn about the beautiful diversity our country offers all year long, not just during a dedicated time of year.

In an effort to increase awareness, I am now offering through EBM a variety of opportunities for groups, schools, clubs, teams, etc to experience another culture through a fun, interactive experience, I call them “Experiencias Mexicanas”, the activity can be offered in a rental facility, a home, in our El Cafe y Bar, or other venue and each quote is catered to include, food, drinks/cocktails (optional), and a hands-on experience.  The most popular is the Tamalada (tamales making) and Dia de los Muertos theme.  I can be contacted via email if you are interested in more information milissa@elburritomercado.com

El Burrito Mercado is celebrating 35years, and we have several great promotional and event based activities as part of the ongoing celebrations.  35years is a looong time! And the journey of growing up in a family owned business is incredible, I feel so blessed and grateful to my parents for their many sacrifices and hard work for this booming business.  EBM has impacted our family, the St. Paul Westside community, contributed thousands of dollars to organizations, and so, so many special people, some have been employees but many have become an extension of our family.  Thank you all for the 35years of support and loyalty!


We had a wonderful anniversary celebration in July, the community was present and supportive, local mariachi, dancers, bands, and we served refreshing margaritas as well as the traditional festival foods like tacos & elotes! Below is a link to the spanish video of the celebration, my father shared some words in the video, in summary, he thanks the community, our employees, and God for the support and many blessings our family has received through EBM, he could not have expressed it any better!

I also feel moved to congratulate the many other successful Hispanic owned business’ of Minnesota, such as La Loma Tamales, Manny’s Tortas, and Boca Chica amongst many more, Muchas Felicidades!

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp9v2JhZr98El Burrito Merc Logo

Millions of Gallons of Salsa for Superbowl!

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I haven’t been able to get my mom to write a recipe book yet, so, I’m going to ‘trick’ her into working on it by helping me with my new monthly recipe blogs! Eventually I should collect enough recipes to start her recipe book.  In these blogs, expect some of the recipes to be my mothers, some will be from El Burrito Mercado, and some my own (what I call my own but really it’s a collection from my husband’s family and what I’ve ‘picked up’ along the way).  I realize there are folks at all levels of cooking experience, and the recipes will vary in difficulty but I assure you, each will be delightful and true to la Experiencia Mexicana!

This first recipe is inspired by the upcoming SUPERBOWL game that is only about two weeks away scheduled for Sunday, February 2- not that I am a football fan because I don’t understand the game(though I wish I did)!  Yet, I love the Superbowl fan energy and it’s another excuse to eat, drink, and cheer for the exact opposite team my husband cheers for (whomever it will be!)

Are you wondering, do Mexicans watch Superbowl?  Well amigos, I don’t know what percentage of Mexicans watch the big game??  (I smirk) But…. I know that the favorite football food is Mexican!

Millions of gallons of salsa and guacamole are consumed in that one day!  According to Delish, for last years Superbowl, food must haves were Salsa, Chips & Guac at #1, and Nachos at #6! We are definitely Mexicanizing Superbowl eats! (website: http://www.delish.com/food/recalls-reviews/super-bowl-party-food-by-the-numbers)

So, I’m ‘kicking-off’  the recipe blogs with the elemental component of all Mexican meals: SALSA!  Here it is, an easy, go-to, must have, roasted red salsa:

ROASTED TOMATO SALSA: yields approx 3cups


3-4 fresh jalapeño chiles (use serrano if you want it spicier)
2-3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1/4 cup minced onion
5-7 small to medium roma tomatoes (or use about 2 cans 15-ounce can of diced (better if roasted) tomatoes)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro(optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tbsp olive oil

Directions (don’t forget to open a window and make sure the vent fan is on!)

1. Roast the tomatoes, chiles and garlic.   In a small  skillet over medium heat, heat oil and roast the tomatoes first, turning regularly until well charred on all sides about 15minutes, 10 minutes into roasting tomatoes, add chiles and garlic(with skin on), turning regularly, until they are soft and patched brown, about 5-10 minutes for the chiles, 10-15 minutes for the garlic.  Cool until touchable, then remove the chile stems and chop a bit, peel the skin off the garlic.  Place chiles, garlic, and onion into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

2.    Finalizing the salsa.   Add the tomatoes.  Re-cover and pulse until you have a coarse puree or desired consistency.  Add lime juice, garnish with cilantro (optional).  Taste and season with salt, about 1 teaspoon.  Ready to serve! (feel free to add a couple tablespoons of water for a ‘juicier’ consistency)

A salsa like this is great for dipping with chips (try our All Natural Stoneground Corn Chips available at Cub Foods, Kowalski’s, Produce Exchange in Midtown Global Market) Make a not-so-spicy dip for kids, stir the salsa with sour cream for a mild and thicker salsa dip! Or, heat up the salsa in sauce pan and serve over huevos rancheros or your favorite pulled pork, beef or chicken, side with rice & beans for a complete Mexican meal.

There are tons of salsa recipes and variations, I find this one to be a great basic red salsa, and I love the roasted flavor.  Are you a green salsa lover (like me?), want to offer two salsas at your superbowl party?  Easy!  Replace the small romas with ripe tomatillos, peel the husks and wash them, follow same procedures as the red salsa directions, be sure to add the cilantro!

Of course, all these ingredients can be found at El Burrito Mercado, and while you are there, grab avocados to make guacamole for your Superbowl fiesta! Plus a huge selection of other delicious snacks from Minnesota’s only full service Mexican deli- EL BURRITO MERCADO!

Need more Superbowl fiesta ideas?  Please email me milissa@elburritomercado.comDoes this information seem accurate? What is a MUST food at your Superbowl party?

If you don’t think you’ll have time to make your own salsa for this Sunday, visit our deli and take a few flavors!