When Novelty Nachos closed its doors near the corner of West 231st Street and Riverdale Avenue, neighbors mourned the loss of a nearby eatery. But that mourning is now over.
A new taco joint opened last month, with another eatery on its way this month.
Amor Eterno opened at 310 W. 231st St., at the former site of Mea Ja Boutique, and already is impressing customers.
“Two dollars for a taco, you can’t go wrong with that,” said Laura Moloney, a customer who discovered Amor Eterno while walking around the area.
“It’s good authentic Mexican food. It’s made correctly with fresh chicken, fresh cilantro, onions, tomato. It’s not processed.”
Citlalli Cureno, a student at nearby New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science, learned about Amor Eterno from classmates and decided to try it out. She makes tacos at home and was impressed with how the staff prepared the chorizo for her order.
The meat is cooked in a sombrero, which resembles the lid of an industrial-sized pan. It is the Mexican way of making the food.
“When they cook it, some restaurants don’t cook it all the way,” Cureno said. “When you see the cilantro and onion, it’s big giant pieces. But (here) it’s finely sliced.”
Maritza Hernandez and her family decided to open the eatery after years of getting rave reviews from friends and family about her tacos.
“We don’t put (in) lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese, avocado,” the former stay-at-home mother said. “That is something different from the Mexican (version). We put (in) onions and cilantro.”
The eatery offers more traditional meats like chicken and roasted pork, but also sells tacos made with pig’s stomach, pork shoulder or flank steak. Hernandez plans to expand her menu to include Mexican bread and ice cream in the near future.
The business is a family affair. Hernandez’s uncle is the chef and her husband clocks in as well.
“We’re all learning how to work together and cook,” said Melisa Perez, Hernandez’s god-daughter, a high school senior at IN-Tech Academy who works at the restaurant after school. “I get to spend more time with them. That was the point of this whole restaurant thing was to work as a family.”
Perez takes orders, cleans tables and helps with food preparation. She also works with Hernandez’s two younger children, showing them how make buttered rolls and bagels with cream cheese for customers.
Hernandez is well aware of the challenges of having businesses on the block, and plans to get the word out through social media and handouts around the Broadway area.
But Amor Eterno is getting some competition. A few doors down, a new establishment will open where the Novelty Nachos once stood.
The new eatery will serve a mix of Spanish, Greek and Mediterranean style cuisines, said Alex Vlachos, one of the co-owners. The prices would be similar to its predecessor, who charged $9.25 for it roasted chicken meal and $8.95 for its spinach pie meal.
The space, which could open as early as this month, is undergoing renovations and awaiting city inspections. The plan, Vlachos said, is to hire between six and eight people.
For customers like Moloney and Carino, the two places mean more — and healthier — food choices for the community.
“The neighborhood is starting to change,” Moloney said, “and it’s good to have more local businesses in the area.”