Editor's note: This is the third of a series of 4 mini articles written by Yara Elian, a High School Senior, providing an insight into how local Bay Area restaurateurs are coping in these uncertain economic times caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. If you are local to the Bay Area, please support these featured restaurants. If you are not local to Bay Area, please support your local restaurants- they really are in need of our patronage!
La Fritanguera is a true family business. While Jennifer, the owner, runs the kitchen full-time, her husband does most of the shopping, her mother makes most of the pastries, and her daughter helps out with everything else on a regular basis.
Jennifer was born in Nicaragua during Nicaragua's Civil War. When she was 5 years old, she took a trip by bus, and later by car, with her mother from Nicaragua to Mexico and then from Mexico to Concord, California. It was only years later that the family was able to reunite after their immigration papers were finally approved.
The La Fritanguera chef has indulged herself in cooking since she was 7 years old. She loved to treat people to what she thought of as “food art”. Before starting her own restaurant, Jennifer worked in retail and administrative jobs, but her heart wasn’t in it. Her life turned around the moment she was given an opportunity to start a career in the catering business. Jennifer willingly quit her current job at the time and went for it.
Opening her first restaurant on Colfax Street in July 2017, Jennifer adored her tiny but cozy location. However, the learning year was very difficult: dealing with food costs, payroll, staffing, and work-life balance. With time, Jennifer found her groove, and became deeply in love with her work. “I'm just happy in the kitchen,” she says. “I love this restaurant, it keeps me connected to my roots. I love Nicaraguan food and my mission is to have the world taste it.”
Adjusting to the COVID-19 reality has been tough for Jennifer and her restaurant. Her sales dropped 80% and she had to make significant adjustments to optimize the menu. She removed pre-cooked items like shredded beef, beef tongue, and one of customers’ favorites, Chancho Frito, in order to reduce waste. The first week she had to throw away these dishes because she wanted to offer fresh food. Now, La Fritanguera offers steak and chicken that are made to-go. La Fritanguera is open with shorter hours and days to save on payroll and utilities.
For those that have never tried Nicaraguan food, Jennifer suggests trying the family deals: 2 adults and 2 kids for $20.00. The ensemble includes grilled boneless chicken thighs, and beans and rice. Jennifer pairs the dish with her fav Maduros (sweet plantain), and a small side of their tangy cabbage slaw.
1819 Colfax Street, Concord, California 94520
Yara Elian is a Senior at Northgate High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, who loves languages, cultures, food, and writing.