Beginning in April of 2015, El Canelo is overflowing with positivity. Not only from its customers but its staff as well.
The Mexican restaurant, located at 301 Roseport Road in Elwood, Kansas, prides itself on authenticity as well as a friendly staff.
“You know, when you do a good job and the customers like you and the food is good, all of that stuff together makes people happy,” Maria Macias, a waitress of three years at El Canelo, says. “That’s why I’m here. It’s because I like what I do.”
Customers sitting throughout the restaurant would interact with the staff in an almost familial way, as waiters and waitresses could be seen talking with some of the children and listening to them as they tried to pronounce words like “hola” and “gracias.”
Children also could indulge in the various candies available at checkout, though the actual food on display at El Canelo is what the staff prides itself on.
The Mexican restaurant has a huge menu, focusing on beans, rice, tamales, enchiladas and quesadillas among a variety of other food items. Everything is made fresh, and the authenticity that the restaurant strives for is evidenced even in its mixed drinks, which are made from tequilas brought in straight from Mexico.
“We wanted to bring something from our culture,” supervisor and waiter Alex Gris says. “The Mexican food is a way to bring a little bit of our culture.”
Daily deals like Taco Tuesday put hard-shell tacos at 99 cents, while Thursday highlights a new, original dish, El Pollo Blanco, which is a plate of rice with grilled chicken and cheese.
Social media and customer feedback also help to change the menu, allowing the cooks to experiment with different combinations of foods, something that Gris says is most certainly welcome.
“Besides other Mexican restaurants, we try to improve dishes and make different combinations,” he says. “We ask the people what they want, and that’s how we bring new dishes into our menu. It’s because people ask for it.”
An outdoor, covered porch is available when the weather is willing to cooperate, but inside, the atmosphere is anything but subtle. Spanish tunes fill the air, and scenic paintings line the walls. It’s a restaurant designed to transport its customers to a new place.
“You get a little piece of Mexico when you get here. The atmosphere, the music — we try to make it a little bit of like going into the country. You can feel the Latin culture. We have people from different parts of the continent; we have people from Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the United States too.”
In the end, it’s all about all of these different facets of the restaurant — the atmosphere, the food, the people and the customers — that help it create a space for itself in what may seem to be a crowded market.
“Some people think it’s a Tex Mex, but it’s not,” Macias says. “It’s real Mexican food.”