ELOY — Elizabeth Flores learned to cook at a young age. As a child, she realized that food brought people together. Later, as a parent, she passed her family’s cooking traditions onto her own children as a way of connecting the generations.
“I was always helping in the kitchen,” said Flores, the owner of La Paloma Family Restaurant. “I always told myself that when I had my children, I would teach them how to cook. In doing so, I shared stories about my childhood and how I learned to the importance of family and how food brought us together.”
As her children grew into adults, they carried on the tradition.
“We have catered many parties for family and friends. For many years my family and I had a booth for the Fiesta Patrias that were held in Eloy. We have always had the menudo booth for St. Helen’s Church festivals,” she said.
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In 2018, Flores and her husband George took over La Paloma Family Restaurant. Running the restaurant was Elizabeth’s dream and inside its walls, she serves some nostalgic foods from her childhood. A favorite item on the menu is named “Liz’s Enchiladas.”
“As I think about traditions and our food, Liz’s Enchiladas is one dish that comes to mind and brings many memories to me,” she said. “I can vividly remember the many times, that my Nana cooked enchiladas, rice and beans. That was the dish made to celebrate birthdays for all in the family.”
Throughout her life, when the extended family gathered together, menudo was often prepared by Flores’ grandmother. Menudo is a traditional, but time intensive soup typically made with tripe in a chili and beef based broth.
“Menudo was also a favorite dish for our families. It seemed that every time my Nana made menudo it meant, we were having a family gathering with the tios, tias and the many cousins,” Flores said.
As well as eating, the family gatherings involved listening to Spanish music, dancing and spending time together until “all hours of the night,” Flores said.
“For many individuals that I knew, menudo was a dish that most people only made at Christmas, but not for us,” she said. “Green and red chili was a dish that was made by special request. These traditions continued with my mom, and aunts.”
Menudo, as well as pozole are also featured on the menu at La Paloma on Saturdays and Sundays.
Other house favorites at the restaurant are the Eloy tacos, smothered green chili burrito with white sauce, served with rice and beans as well as red and green chili, green chicken enchiladas, fajitas, taco salad and other items.
“Our menu has a variety of Mexican and American dishes,” Flores said. “We also have the Toltec burger, a half-pound patty served with French fries. On Fridays, we have a fish fry.”
La Paloma restaurant originally opened in 2014 as a business incubator and part of a Second Chance program run by the Pinal Hispanic Council.
Taking over the restaurant in 2018 was a dream come true for Flores.
“I had always told my husband my dream of wanting a restaurant,” she said. “I never thought that he would make it my dream a reality but he did. It has been challenging at times with all of the different components that need to occur to make the dream come true. We would not be able to make this happen without the help of our family, George, Dominic and Ashley and their families. The best times are when the food is being prepared and family is working together and the music is playing creating new memories.”
The restaurant closed for several months due to COVID-19 but will reopen on Sept. 17.
“We made the decision to close the restaurant for the safety of our customers and family. It is has been difficult, as we have not been able to open and even had to lay off our employees. At this time, we still are not sure of how long it will take to recover, as we had just been in the business a little over a year,” Flores said.
For the first few weeks, the restaurant will be open Thursday through Sunday.
“It is difficult to determine how soon we will return to our regular schedule, however we will keep everyone updated on our Facebook page,” Flores said.
As the Flores family prepares to reopen, the goal is bring families together through good food.
“My hope and dreams are to make the La Paloma Family Restaurant a family atmosphere for Eloy and surrounding communities,” she said. “We have already been able to share many memories with customers.”