Hanging on, thanks to takeout tacos
By Aldo Callejas, as told to Jeff Howe
The beginning, in March, was really crazy for us. I got it right away. I spent three days in ICU before the lockdown even started. I’d been in Houston right before that, at a rodeo, the biggest rodeo of the year. I get back, and people are talking about this disease, and I realize I have it. I was stuck at home for a month, and my brother Miguel was stuck in El Salvador at the same time. They’d closed the border.
We really didn’t want to close. I’d been in Singapore and Japan in January, when it was first going down, and I called Miguel, and was like, “This isn’t going to go away. Not in a month, or two months.” So even though the money was bad just doing takeout, I knew our competitors would be closed, and people would say, “Oh, La Hacienda is open.”
Luckily we have this incredible manager, Cecily Rosales. She kept us open while I was at home sick and Miguel was in El Salvador. Then we discovered Uber Eats, which we’d never really used before. That can be a thousand bucks a day right there. And then we opened back up for outdoor dining, and now indoor dining too. We’ve managed to bring back about 80 percent of our staff. It helps that my dad runs the building, so we save on rent.
My brother and I were born in Boston, but my mom is from Mexico and my dad is from El Salvador. We’ve basically been doing this since I can remember. I think my dad was cooking at Chili’s when we first moved here, and my mom was a cook in East Boston, but on the weekends they would sell tacos out the back of their truck at soccer games around the city. That led to a little takeout place, which led to their first restaurant in Maverick Square, and they opened La Hacienda 12 years ago, then gave it to us. We’re definitely known for our tacos. The beef tongue is incredible. So tender.
We’ll be okay. But I do a lot of our deliveries, so I see what it’s like out there. East Boston has a lot of undocumented immigrants, and they’re receiving no help from the government. There’s free food out there, but you have to know where to look.
Aldo Callejas and his brother Miguel are co-owners of La Hacienda restaurant in East Boston.