Fans of Mexican food can't get enough of the restaurants along the East Overland corridor in Scottsbluff. "We've had people from Denver come to Scottsbluff just to eat Mexican food. They also come from South Dakota, and all the way from Lincoln and Omaha," Rosita's Mexican Restaurant owner and manager Evan Lerma said.
We're told there are at least 17 Mexican restaurants in Scottsbluff and Gering, and all of them are authentic. Elena Pedroza owns El Molcajete, and she strives for quality. "We make our own corn tortillas," Pedroza said. "We make the rice. Everything we make here is what my mother used to make at home."
Rosita's Mexican Restaurant has been at its current location for 34 years. It started in Lyman, Nebraska in the 1960's. "My grandma actually started it," owner and manager Evan Lerma said. "She used to work for this family as a maid and cook. So, she learned all the recipes there. She decided to take her recipes, and open up a restaurant." Now, the tradition continues in Scottsbluff. "We strive on making everything homemade. Our tortillas, or corn tortillas, are freshly homemade, and we fry them in a way that they are puffy. So we just have taken off with that. People have really grown to love that," Lerma said.
One restaurant that is not directly on the East Overland corridor, but remains extremely popular, is El Charrito. The restaurant has been around for 40 years, and owner Frank Gollas says every restaurant in town is a little different. "I think all of the restaurants here have a little touch that distinguishes them in the valley," Gollas said. "Some do really good with corn. Our signature recipe here is our pork chili. From day one, the pork chili is set aside from any other restaurant in town."
At Las VII Americas, owners run a restaurant, but also make tons of tortillas for other local establishments. "Our specialty here is the tortillas," Alejandro Martinez said. "We start making them at 6 a.m., and we end up making 200-dozen every day." And you can even find Mexican bakeries, like Lizcake. There, you'll find a variety of cakes, sweet bread and snacks. The Mexican culture has been a part of Scottsbluff for a long time. "A lot of folks migrated up here to help with the farming industry and the sugar beet industry," city of Scottsbluff representative Anthony Gurrola said. "They were able to plant seeds here and expand with families, so it's a very family oriented community."
Efforts are underway to continue supporting these restaurants. The city of Scottsbluff is working to revitalize the East Overland corridor by providing grants. Many of the businesses in the area are taking advantage of those grants to make improvements. The exterior of El Molcajete is new and improved, and is just one example of what's being done. "We had been thinking about remodeling, but never really did anything about it," Pedroza said. "And when they offered a grant, that was an incentive that we took."
Owners of all the local restaurants are hoping you'll be encouraged to travel west, and try the amazing Mexican fare in Scottsbluff. "We get to know our customers personally and they get to know you, and obviously they like us here, because they've kept us around for 40 years," Gollas said. "It's like a hidden gem", Lerma said.