Food & Drink
Las Adelitas Celebrates 10 Years
Most days, you can find David Zamorano tapping away on his laptop while enjoying a burrito at Las Adelitas on Americká street. The brand and marketing director has been with the popular Mexican restaurant since it opened 10 years ago. From its genesis, Zamorano has watched it grow from a delivery service to a multi-chain business, and with it Prague’s culinary landscape.
“We’re not the only ones who were involved in this change,” he says, “but we were part of it.”
Originally from Mexico City, Zamorano first came to Prague in 2006 and discovered a small but tightly knit community of Mexican expats. On most Wednesdays, he and his friends often found themselves grabbing beers after a game of football and lamenting their homesickness for good tacos.
“Mexican people are very nostalgic about food and family,” he says
In the mid-2000s, it was difficult to find Mexican food in the Czech capital. Authentic products like corn tortillas were expensive for businesses concerned with keeping costs low. Rodrigo Flores worked in many restaurants, none of which allowed him to cook traditional recipes. So Flores and fellow expat Patricio Ibargüengoitia teamed up to start a delivery service, where family, friends and other customers would place food orders through email.
“I was one of the first to order from them,” Zamorano says. “It was around the end of 2007.”
Soon, the city’s taste and demand for their delicious tacos, burritos and quesadillas grew. By 2009, Flores and Ibargüengoitia hired Fernando Larios to help expand the delivery service. Zamorano joined the team when they opened their first restaurant on Americká street that same year, and Luis Arronte came on as executive chef soon after. The five partners make up Las Adelitas’ core team.
While some of them had experience in food service, none had experience in running a business. In the beginning, they worked 17-hour days doing everything from bussing and bartending to community outreach, a change from Zamorano’s background in film production and advertising.
Their first restaurant required massive renovations, most of which they undertook themselves. They gutted much of the interior to make room for more seating, painted the walls, and designed and tiled the tables to evoke Mexico’s historic style. They chose the name Las Adelitas as a tribute to the women who cooked food and often fought alongside the men in the Mexican Revolution.
Despite their lack of experience, Zamorano says he was never afraid of filling the restaurant’s 30 seats. In the first few weeks of business, he remembers getting a reservation from a couple who drove all the way from Ostrava to eat at their restaurant.
“Their honeymoon was in Mexico, and they were coming because they had heard we serve authentic Mexican food,” he says.
The Las Adelitas team entered the restaurant scene at a time when Prague wasn’t known for its culinary flair. As the years passed and Las Adelitas opened three more locations, the guys witnessed the city begin transforming into a destination for foodies. Lokal, a popular beer hall specializing in Czech dishes, opened not long after Las Adelitas, and burger joint The Tavern soon followed.
“Ten years ago, there wasn’t a place to find a good burger,” Zamorano says. “So imagine Mexican food.”
Now you can not only see a variety of nationalities, from Italian to Vietnamese, but also a variety of dining concepts, such as pop-ups like Manifesto Market or eating while dangling above the Prague skyline like Dinner in the Sky.
Mexican restaurants are no exception. While some eateries have come and gone, Prague now has several spots where you can enjoy a margarita and a taco al pastor, a dish that every Mexican man would miss when far from home, according to Zamorano. These include Agave in Old Town, Little Mexico in Vinohrady, Alebrijes near Kampa, Kukulkan Taqueria at Manifesto Market, and even 24-hour fast-food spot Burrito Loco. Las Adelitas also recently opened the smaller La Taqueria near Namesti Miru, which has a few seats and only serves tacos.
Zamorano attributes this proliferation partly to the growth in student exchange programs and tourism marketing between the Czech Republic and Mexico, but Las Adelitas definitely played a part. Places like Little Mexico and Alebrijes were started by their former employees. They also host many cultural events, such as foriegn film screenings and Dia de los Muertos parties, to bring the community closer together and celebrate their culture with others.
As their business’s first decade comes to a close, they’re looking at what the next will bring. Now, the five men are focusing on transforming their family-like rapport into a more structured company environment as they grow. They also plan to open more smaller businesses like La Taqueria, with limited menus that spotlight certain dishes.
“It’s been a journey to watch the food scene change and we feel proud to be part of this change,” Zamorano says.
Story by Nicole Ely