Wharton: Authentic Mexican Restaurant an Immigrant Family Affair

The Cortez family opened up their restaurant, Mexico Lindo, and started selling authentic birria tacos after immigrating from Guatemala in 2013.

Located at the corner of 7th and Moore Streets in the Wharton area of South Philadelphia, Mexico Lindo y Qué Rico Restaurant has been selling a variety of Mexican foods—from burritos to quesadillas and authentic birria tacos—for the last four years.

Daniel Cortez and his family all work together to run the restaurant, while also dealing with the additional barriers — language, homesickness, and navigating a foreign country — they encounter as immigrants.

Cortez and his family moved to the U.S. from Guatemala City, Guatemala in 2013. Since then, the family has worked hard to learn English in order to communicate with the customers and vendors they deal with while running the business.

Outside Mexico Lindo in South Philly. (Nikhil Stride/PN)

“When we first arrived, the language barrier was definitely hard,” Cortez said. “Thankfully my family and I were able to learn enough English to get by when speaking with customers, which made working much easier.”

When COVID-19 hit, the fragile stability the Cortez family had built was quickly upended.

“I spend basically all my time here, so that’s how it has affected me personally,” Cortez said. “It’s just very time consuming.”

With closures and shutdowns, the business suffered. Cortez and his family had to take various measures in order to sustain their income.

The small kitchen in Mexico Lindo dominates most of the space. (Nikhil Stride/PN)

“I had to get a job delivering food to places like hospitals, churches, et cetera, since business was so slow during that time,” Cortez said.

Regular customers still wanted to support the business and were glad Cortez was able to keep the restaurant open during the pandemic.

Alejandra Lopez, a frequent customer, said the restaurant is one of her favorite places in the city.

“I’ve been coming here for that last year regularly, and I’m never unimpressed with the food and service,” she said. “The staff is always excited to see me when I come in and my day is brightened every time I walk through the door.”

For Lopez, the authenticity of the food keeps her coming back and was worth braving the pandemic for.

“As someone that is Mexican and who grew up eating everything here at home, I haven’t been able to find a Mexican restaurant in the Philadelphia area that measures up to this place,” she said. “The birria tacos with consommé are insane, and when I eat them, I feel like I’m back in Mexico.”

Lopez isn’t the only customer who attests to the quality of Mexico Lindo y Que Rico Restaurant. New customers, like Samantha Lorenzo, a Cuban-American resident of Northeast Philadelphia, are becoming regulars, attracted to both the authentic food and general vibe in the restaurant.

“I’ve only recently discovered this place and I’ve been hooked,” she said. “I think it’s so important to support family owned businesses, especially due to the pandemic.”

The birria tacos at Mexico Lindo. (Nikhil Stride/PN).

Lopez is also an immigrant, and thinks it is important to offer other immigrants as much support as she can, especially if it comes with an appetizing plate of food.

“When you think about the experience immigrants go through when coming to a new country and starting a new life, it’s so hard,” she said.

Cortez’s mother started the restaurant, and he has watched her pour all of her time into the business, seeing it as a way to build a better life. For Lopez, supporting another immigrant family is an important way to strengthen the community, while staying connected to her own history.

“My parents did it, and so I witnessed it first hand growing up,” she said. “You think about million dollar chains, and how they’re usually the go-to’s for people here. And oftentimes, the family-owned businesses are overlooked.”

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