New Mexican Restaurant Calls The Pine Hills Su Casa

Vincente y Isidra Merino, Owners of Viva Cinco de Mayo. Photo by KAYLA ROYSTER

By KAYLA ROYSTER
Contributing Writer

A new business has been opened in Albany, an authentic Mexican restaurant has opened at a time in which immigrants are not feeling welcome due to the current head of the White House.

Viva Cinco de Mayo opened back in December. In celebration of their name, which means “the 5th of May,” they are planning on selling food in Washington Park on May 6. This new addition to the Albany area is run by the Merino family.

Located in the middle of 809 Madison Ave, Viva Cinco de Mayo is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m to 9:30p.m. Monday through Saturday, closing at 8 p.m. on Sundays.

This Mexican restaurant has a lot more to offer than just food. The vibrant orange walls, colorful paintings and brightly colored tapestry gives an inviting feel to this restaurant’s theme.

The importance of their Mexican heritage was shown by the paintings hanging on the walls, items on the menu, the imported drinks being sold, and sombreros that had been decoratively placed, giving one the sense of being invited into another culture with open arms.

The restaurant owners picked the spot at 809 Madison Ave because of the lack of Spanish food in the area.

According to Isidra Merino, co-owner of Viva Cinco de Mayo, she thought Madison Ave was the right place to open a business for another reason as well. She felt it was perfect due to its proximity to college students, offices, as well as the Albany Medical center.

“My mom wanted to decorate it and make is as authentic as she could. She was going for bright and welcoming,” said Merino’s daughter, Dulce, who works as a server at Viva Cinco de Mayo.

“We like to be different, use a lot of spices and herbs like cilantro. Have décor sent from hometown [sic]” said Isidra Merino.

“We’re unique because what we cook has been passed down in our family and culture. That’s why I, my mom, dad, uncle, aunt, cousin, and sister work here,” said the daughter. “We have eight to nine workers.”

Working at a family restaurant has more perks then just family bonding time and the sharing of recipes.

“I get to practice my Spanish working here. I can learn things while talking with Spanish customers. Plus, when it’s not busy like before closing on Sundays I can study if I need to,” said the 16-year-old.

Dulce Merino believes that the most popular item at the restaurant is the Huarache, or her personal favorite, Chilate de Res Con Vegetales. “Many customers like to order flan,” said Mrs. Merino.

Among the regular customers at Viva Cinco de Mayo are James Guerrero and his mother.

The two like to try different items whenever they visit, but their favorite remains Bistec as well as sopas, which are corn tortillas with sauce and meat.

“I love the sopas, and the chips. There are so many options made in different ways,” said James Guerrero.

Being a family-run restaurants means the staff is limited, though they do go out of their way to try to accommodate everyone. “We do deliver. It just depends on how busy, the people here who have transportation, and workers available that day,” said Dulce Merino.

Though this restaurant is new to the Albany area, word has gotten out about its unique and authentic cuisine and it has made its way to the mayor. On May 5, Viva Cinco de Mayo hopes to be able to cut a red ribbon with the mayor to celebrate the opening of their restaurant.

On May 6, Viva Cinco de Mayo has been approved for a permit to sell their food out in Washington Park. Tlaayudas will be available that day, which are non-fried meal of round crunchy tortillas with black bean sauce, cheese, lettuce and pico de gallo.

The Merinos hope to one day pass this business onto their children, or maybe expand. Until then they want to continue improving and adding new items to their menu, one of those items possibly including crickets, but they have yet to determine when these additions will be added.

“We will be adding Mexican style fruit salad with mango, chili, lemon, pineapple and cucumber” said Isidra Merino. “Also, we will get Mexican corn and chipotle chicken.”

This restaurant’s theme, food, and cultural background is Mexico. With Donald Trump as current president and his constant threat of building a wall, authentic businesses such as Viva Cinco de Mayo may one day cease to exist.

“I don’t mind speaking about Trump,” said Dulce Merino. “That wall idea isn’t intelligent because he’s just creating more enemies. Were all immigrants if you go back far enough.”

“Who will collect the food and work on the farms if you get rid of us? What will happen to culture if you send all the immigrants away?” said Dulce Merino.

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