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About 5% of NH restaurants are Mexican. One Manchester spot aims to be a place for everyone.

Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Begy's Taqueria in Manchester sells tacos for $4 each. Mexican restaurants tend to be modestly priced nationwide according to a new survey of the Pew Research Center. Sixty-one percent are rated as one “dollar sign,” and less than 1% nationwide have a rating of three or four dollar signs. Jose Garcia, the owner, says the affordability lets many factory and construction workers visit it frequently.

Jose Garcia used to work in the fields as a kid in Zacatecas in northern Mexico. Looking for new horizons, he immigrated to Texas 22 years ago. There he found a community of young people like him.

“There was a lot of music and places to go to dance,” he said. “But there weren’t many jobs.”

He ventured to the northeast looking to open a restaurant that could mimic the festive ambiance he found in the immigrant community in Texas. Garcia also dreamed of offering real Mexican food. He has nothing against Tex-Mex tacos, but he says the real flavors of Mexico are unbeatable.

Once in New Hampshire, he found a more affordable place to live but with a much smaller Latino community. For years he had to work in a foundry, barely making ends meet.

His Dominican wife encouraged him to pursue his dream. They opened Begy’s Taqueria in Manchester a few years ago. They met on the dance floor in Nashua, and now they swing in the kitchen to the sound of the jukebox, preparing tacos that are hard to find in other places.

Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Recently Garcia opened Taco Loco #1, a taco truck in Nashua. He uses #1, as he says in New Hampshire multiple trucks are using the same name.

Tripe and other beef offal are served in warm corn or flour tortillas, topped with onions, fresh cilantro, radishes, cucumber, salsa, and a hint of lemon; a perfect balance of spicy and citrus. Garcia says the flavors are like going on a trip to Zacatecas, his hometown.

Garcia’s shop is one of the 155 Mexican restaurants open in New Hampshire; more than a third are in Hillsborough County, which has a larger Mexican community than other parts of the state, according to Census data. A recent Pew Research Center survey based on data from Safegraph, and Yelp reviews said Mexican restaurants make up roughly 5% of restaurants in New Hampshire, but nationally comprised 10% of the total of restaurants.

Compared with other New England states, New Hampshire has the second lowest number of Mexican restaurants, while Massachusetts and Maine have the highest.

Garcia also sells more traditional taco options, like pastor, chorizo or asada, for those who do not venture into the specialties. David Frechette, a client, is a fan of steak tacos, he usually orders a half dozen

“It’s one of the best places in town,” he said.

The taco shop location was once a Bosnian restaurant. When Garcia rented it, the landlord asked him to please keep the name Begy's, which is his last name. That anecdote encapsulates Garcia’s goal to make his restaurant a place for everyone, including U.S.-born residents and the growing immigrant community in his neighborhood who perhaps have never tried a taco before.

“That is essential for me,” he said. “People from Africa eating my tacos – that is amazing!”

Garcia says since there aren’t many Mexican restaurants in the state, some business owners have difficulties finding food suppliers or where to buy more affordable products.

“If I were a bad person I would not tell them where to find tortillas, and I would let them buy them very expensive,” he said. “But no, we get along like friends.”

There aren’t many Latin American restaurants in New Hampshire either, only 38 restaurants across the state serve Hispanic food from places like El Salvador, Colombia, or Puerto Rico, according to data from the Pew Research Center analysis.

Maine and Vermont have the fewest Latin American restaurants in New England, with 28 and 12 respectively.

Garcia shares his experience with people who want to open a restaurant because for him it’s all about elevating the value of Latino restaurants and diversifying the Granite State restaurant scene.

“They may become my competition, [but] we have to support each other,” Garcia said.

Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
In a corner, an altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe shares the space with a pair of green and red boxing gloves, reminiscent of Garcia’s old dream. One of his cooks, Soledad Solis, who's originally from the Dominican Republic, says even if she is not Mexican, she brings buena mano to cook, a good ear for the clients, and a lot of happiness to those who find comfort away from home.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.
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