SANGER – A Sanger taco shop was one of six local restaurants recognized for its resiliency after coming out on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Six restaurants from Fresno and Tulare counties received $5,000 from The California Restaurant Foundation. Recipients of the grants include Tulare County restaurants Birria y Pollos El Guero in Porterville and Quesadilla Gorilla in Visalia, along with Fresno County restaurants La Elegante Taqueria, Senor Aji and Café Leon Mexican Restaurant of Fresno, and Mi Linda Tierra of Sanger.
All restaurants were awarded their grants through the Foundation’s Restaurants Care Resilience Fund. According to the Foundation, the fund was started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to provide additional support to restaurant businesses and keep them afloat amidst pandemic regulations.
“We had our difficulties because of quarantine,” Javier Elizondo, owner of Mi Linda Tierra said. “A lot of times we were worried about the unknown.”
The family-owned taco shop Mi Linda Tierra is located on 7th street in downtown Sanger. Elizondo explained that not long after their business started out in a mobile trailer in 2016, they lost that same trailer to a fire. Around the time that their business was fully recovering from the fire, the pandemic of 2020 hit.
Elizondo explained the many ways the pandemic hit the business. From the initial shut down, to the fear and unstable sales that followed, to Elizondo himself overcoming a severe case of COVID-19, the business continuously found ways to overcome various setbacks as they came.
Mi Linda Tierra’s most recent struggle was the loss of their freezer. The secondhand freezer went out over time and limited that amount of inventory the business could purchase.
“We’d have to get small amounts and we were always always running out (of stock) of this or that,” Elizondo said.
Thanks to the Restaurants Care Resilience Fund, Mi Linda Tierra will get a new freezer, microwave and coffee bar. In spite of the struggles the restaurant faced in the past, they continue to focus on pursuing their mission of serving quality cut meat in their tacos.
“We have a rule in the kitchen. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t cook it,” Elizondo said. ”A lot of times (eating meat from) taco shops, you’re biting into the gristle. I still believe that people appreciate nice, clean cut meat.”
After receiving the grant from the Restaurants Care Resilience Fund, Mi Linda Tierra will hopefully be able to operate without having to be so resilient. Elizondo first discovered the grant program on a post in the Sanger scene Facebook group that explained its purpose to assist small restaurants.
What started as a relief fund for service workers from the foundation turned into something bigger with the rise of the pandemic. After observing the struggle small businesses had to ensure in California amidst the pandemic, the California Restaurant Foundation and their partners SoCalGas, PG&E and SDG&E were inspired to start the Restaurants Care Resilience Fund as a permanent solution that woulRed assist small businesses in need so they could stay open.
To be eligible for the grants businesses must be customers of SoCalGas, PG&E or SDG&E; have one to five operating units; be located in California; be open for at least one full year; make less than $3 million in annual revenue; and have consideration for women and people of color.