Why Alma Romero took a risk and opened a restaurant at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic
After her husband got COVID-19 in May of 2020, his recovery gave the pair what they felt was a new lease on life to enter a new venture.
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Alma Del Mar is not your typical Mexican restaurant.
Look at their menu and you’ll find an eclectic assortment of dishes, from lobster benedict, drizzled with just the right amount of velvety hollandaise sauce, to tofu ala Mexicana and vegetables seasoned with authentic spices from Mexico.
“It was a dream of mine,” Alma Romero, owner of Alma Del Mar said to AL DÍA News.
The fearless Latina and her husband, Marcos, opened their restaurant in June 2020, with hopes that it would flourish despite a sudden COVID-19 diagnosis Marcos received in May.
“My husband thought that he was dying and when he recovered we felt like we had a new lease on life, so we opened up our restaurant and that was our dream,” said Romero.
The family-owned restaurant, which is located in the Italian Market, wanted to keep it light when deciding on what kind of cuisine they were going to be serving to hungry locals.
“It's more American food with a Mexican twist”, she said.
Alma Del Mar, which translates to “Soul of the sea,” is exactly that.
Their limitless menu thrives on light and healthy meals that include salmon, crab, and octopus with a bit of a Mexican touch.
“We wanted to create different meals that you cannot find anywhere else,” she said.
Romero, who hails from Puebla, Mexico, got a comforting welcome right after she opened the restaurant.
Her eatery was featured on an episode of Queer Eye in July, and now has customers coming in from all over who love the show and want to see the makeover the establishment got from the fab five.
Now, the mural they designed is a landmark for customers to pay a visit and take a quick selfie.
“We are happy with the positive reception,” said Romero.
Along with the positive publicity her family received in July, there have also been struggles responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Romero and her husband did not receive any help from the government when their eatery was suffering due to the pandemic.
“We did not get any PPP loans or grants, which was hard,” she said.
Because of the lack of funds, Romero had a difficult time paying rent and had to lay off three of her employees.
“That was a hard decision to make,” she said.
Now, her and 11 other Latino restaurant owners are starting a campaign for Latino business owners in South Philadelphia who have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The campaign is called the South Philly Mexican Business COVID Relief Fund.
“We have all come together to try and support each other,” she said.
The campaign is a GoFundMe account and has a goal of $50,000 that will be split between all 12 Latino businesses.
“We are encouraging people to come into one of our restaurants and support us,” she said.
Latinos are a driving force of restaurants in Philadelphia and have over 150 businesses in the city.
To support a local family-owned restaurant that has faced the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, pay a visit to Alma Del Mar, located on 1007 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147.
Alma and her team of experienced cooks have a dish called, pulpo al carbon, an entree of grilled octopus, tart grilled watermelon, yuzu, fresh avocado, sprinkled with scallions all drizzled with Alma’s homemade salsa.
If you're in the mood for breakfast, there's also bacon and banana french toast that is made with homemade brioche, topped with more bananas and bacon.