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4918 Central Ave.
Owner: Hector Trevino
Born in Chicago, Ill., Hector Trevino, grew up in a small town in northern Mexico called Linares. It's about 90 minutes from Monterrey and just about as close to Texas.
In the mid-1980s, Trevino (Tre-BE-neyo) decided to return to America. He started in Houston with a tacoria (taco stand). Within six months, though, several of his customer's vanished. When they returned, they told tales of inedible tortillas in Atlanta.
Trevino decided to find out for himself. He took 40 cases of what he calls table tortillas ("They puff when you cook them," he says. They're not like American chips) and sold them all within four hours.
Pretty soon, he was in the wholesale food business -- driving back and forth to the Mexican border and returning to Atlanta to sell his products to small grocery stores.
But, he says, he found himself in a situation where too many customers owed him money. And, that, he says, is how he got into the restaurant business.
One man who owed him money paid his debt with a restaurant. Today, the Trevino family owns a handful of restaurants in Atlanta and Charlotte.
He was drawn to Charlotte by a friend from Linares who wanted to partner with him on a restaurant. The friend named the restaurant, decided it wasn't the business for him then sold to Trevino.
That suits Trevino just fine, he says, adding that Charlotte is a good city for Hispanics because the officials are kind and the economy is doing a little bit better here than in other cities.
He says one of the secrets to his success is remaining true to his roots. His restaurants feature dishes from northern Mexico, whereas, he says, most other Mexican restaurants are Americanized (too much cheese) or they only feature dishes from southern Mexico.
One of the most popular menu items at Linares is Queso Flameado, or flaming cheese. It's a simple dish, really: Queso (cheese) mixed with chorizo (sausage) and served on a plate too hot to handle.
Another favorite are their stuffed peppers. Unlike other places, where, Trevino says, the peppers include seeds and are full of cheese, his are authentic to northern Mexico.
In addition to de-seeding the poblano peppers (a chile pepper, not a green pepper), they are smoked and then peeled. The stuffing includes ground beef, carrots, dried potatoes and an egg mix.
With so much to do to manage his business, Trevino says he couldn't do it without his employees. "I consider them my family," he says.
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