How Mole Poblano in the Italian Market took a stand for South Philly’s Mexican restaurants
The spot is famous for its tamales, but owner Javier Rios banded together with his fellow restaurateurs to see out the pandemic.
Javier Rios, the owner of Mole Poblano in South Philadelphia has been a part of the Italian Market since 2012.
But before they had a storefront to call their own, his parents used to make due from their minivan, driving to car washes and factories to sell their homemade tamales and tacos.
It wasn’t hard for his parents to gain the trust of their customers, and not long after starting, they opened their own store.
“Our customers followed us to the store,” Javier Rios said in a recent interview with AL DIA News.
With their bigger space and larger kitchen, Rios and his family were able to make more authentic foods from their home of Puebla, Mexico.
“We like to represent our culture by making food that highlights our heritage,” he said.
The quaint restaurant is known for its handcrafted tamales that use recipes passed down for generations.
“Our tamales are soft and have an amazing taste,” he said.
The Mexican food staple is made fresh every week, and are stuffed with chicken and pork.
“We also have vegetarian tamales that are filled with onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, and epazote with a generous amount of Oaxaca cheese,” he said.
Rios and his family are known for their delightful food that fuels their community, but now they are being known for something beyond the kitchen.
In March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, leaving hundreds of small businesses in Philadelphia without customers.
Many were unsure about how they were going to pay their rent, employees, and other expenses.
One of those restaurant owners in constant worry was Rios himself.
“We were definitely on edge, we didn’t know what to do,” he said.
While the government was handing out grants, and PPP loans, they seemed to miss the mark with Latino businesses that have been major players in Philly’s restaurant scene.
Without help, Rios and eight other businesses banded together to stay afloat.
“We knew we had to start an association that helped our people,” he said. “We had meetings and shared ideas together.”
Their Zoom meetings and nightly conversations soon turned into an association called, The COVID-19 Relief Fund for South Philly Mexican Businesses campaign.
The association knew their voices needed to be heard, and the effort garnered a lot of attention and support. The GoFundMe account they created has made almost $50,000 in over two months.
“The campaign has become a success, we have been grateful for that,” said Rios.
Mole Poblano has since opened their indoor seating up to 25%, but their main source of income is still deliveries and takeout.
“We have all of the delivery services like DoorDash, UberEats, and GrubHub,” he said.
The restaurant is looking forward to opening up 50% in the near future.
“We just really try to give our best service and provide the best food, we kept going, we stayed positive,” he said. “ And because of that, we have made it through.”
To support a small Latino business like Mole Poblano, take a look at their menu, and order some of their well-known tamales if they haven’t sold out yet.