Behind a nondescript building on Paseo del Pueblo Sur, just a block south of El Taoseño and across the street from the shuttered IHOP sits an unassuming food cart. If you drive fast enough, you might even miss it. Inside, on a cool and windy Tuesday morning (Oct. 19), Amelia Mejia and her husband David fired up the flatiron and began preparing for a busy day serving foods you probably can't find anywhere else in Taos County.
The couple are the owners of Taos’ newest culinary addition, Amelia Salvadorian Food, which serves up classic food from El Salvador with a New Mexican twist.
For the past six months, the Mejias have been pleasing palates with breakfast tortas and handmade pupusas – El Salvador’s most popular dish – which consists of a corn flatbread stuffed with chicharron and cheese. This being Taos, however, they say the most popular pupusa they offer is the one that comes with green chile.
Amelia said their culinary tradition has been passed down to her from her mother, grandmother and aunts. She is glad to finally be pursuing food as a career, she said, and added that starting her own business has been her lifelong dream.
The couple moved to Taos from California in 2014 after their church, Pentacostal Church M.I., established a Taos location and they volunteered to make the move. Once in Taos, the couple worked hard to make their dream of cooking for a living come true.
“We worked hard, just saving and saving,” said Amelia. “We said, ‘in the future, we will get our business.’ ”
Amelia worked first for the Taos Inn, then at the Hotel Don Fernando de Taos. Then a friend from church offered her a job at Private Label Select, a local cosmetics and personal care manufacturer. Meanwhile, David worked at Mante’s Chow Cart, and later the Gorge Bar & Grill.
After nearly eight years, Amelia said she and David decided they were ready for a change. “I said, ‘I don’t want to work like that, I want my own business.' ”
First, they located a trailer in use by Rosa’s Tacos, another well-loved food cart, and got started on making it their own. Thanks to their smart savings they were able to purchase the truck and all of the equipment for cooking, storage and food preparation without any outside financial assistance – not even a bank loan.
“When you come to America, it really is a land of opportunity,” said Amelia. “When you want to do something, you can do that.”
The Mejias said the response to their food has been fantastic. In recent months, it has quickly become a go-to spot for locals and construction workers working on Paseo del Pueblo Sur.
“We have people come up and say, 'Oh, you have pupusas?’ or they are excited for something new in Taos,” said Amelia.
People have come to know El Salvadoran food better than ever these days, said the Mejias, as their home country opened itself to tourism after a new president, Nayib Bukele, took power in 2019.
“Everything is better than 30 years ago … a lot of tourists are going to El Salvador,” said Amelia. “A lot of people come in and tell me, ‘Hey, I went to El Salvador, it’s a good place now. Everything is good, [with] more security.”
Because word has spread rapidly about their food cart, the couple work full time as the only employees, though they have occasionally brought in their son, David, to help work the cash register. “He likes doing a good job. It’s cool because he knows how,” said Amelia. “He says, 'Mom and dad, you guys are working hard!’ ”
Each pupusa and tortilla is handmade, and every ingredient is carefully chosen. “Some people don’t know how to do the pupusas. It’s a little hard, because everything is with the hand,” said Amelia, who was taught how to make the dish in her home country.
She explained the national dish comes with a side of cabbage and a sauce. “The pupusa is not good if you don’t have that,” she joked of the cabbage side dish. However, “the specialty is the sauce.”
Amelia explained Salvadorans aren’t as keen on spicy sauce as New Mexicans. “In El Salvador people don’t eat chile, they don’t eat spicy [food],” she laughed. “In our country [the sauce is tomato-based], but we are in New Mexico so we have to use all the chile.”
The bottom line with everything on the menu? “There’s no cheating. Everything is fresh,” she said. This includes the tortillas that come with breakfast orders, which are each handmade from the same dough used to create the pupusas.
The Mejias said they are excited to continue turning people on to the flavors of the country, and showing how they blend with New Mexican ingredients. Some ingredients are even unique to El Salvador, such as loroco (the undeveloped head of a flower native to Central America), which is put into vegetarian pupusas.
As the couple develop a local following, they said they plan to stay busy. “Right now we're working all the time,” said Amelia.
Eventually, they hope to hire additional employees, but that may be as far off as next summer as the Mejias establish themselves as a food vendor and caterer in the area.
For more information call 575-999-1203.