MANCHESTER, NH – After an unpredictable and trying 12 months, independent restaurants across New Hampshire are motivated to fill their patios for the 2021 spring season. With a vaccine available for all adults in place and favorable weather in sight, the industry faces an opportunity to bounce back.
The pleasant weather of recent weeks saw an emergence of activity along Manchester’s downtown. Among the handful of time-tested establishments in the area is Consuelo’s Taqueria, a vibrant hub of authentic Mexican eats that’s been serving the masses for 14 years.
Owner Martín Delgadillo parks his motorcycle on the sidewalk and grabs two handfuls of grocery bags with fresh produce in time for what he hopes will be the dinner crowd.
Delgadillo learned how to cook as a child from his mother – Consuelo – in bustling Mexico City. What began as a necessity grew into a passion which he now displays six days a week at his vibrant yet humble taqueria on Amherst Street. The menu features an array of classics like burritos, authentic street tacos, tortas and enchiladas, all served in a bright, festive space.
Like many of us, Delgadillo first heard about the threat of COVID-19 through the news. When the U.S. turned upside-down in March of 2020, Delgadillo witnessed cities across the country fold almost overnight, including Manchester.
“During St. Patrick’s I knew we had a problem. They started shutting down places. At the moment there were also a lot of problems in New York,” said Delgadillo.
Consuelo’s remained open for takeout for a few days following Governor Sununu’s announcement banning dine-in service. However, Delgadillo soon realized that staying open simply wasn’t an option.
“It was a ghost town. Nobody was working. Lunchtime was completely down. I started to see a lot of restaurants really closing down.”
Delgadillo shut down Consuelo’s for about three months; using the unanticipated free time to remodel and repair the restaurant as the pandemic continued to worsen. With an official stay-at-home order in effect, people found themselves distancing not only from others but also from downtown Manchester.
With improvements in New Hampshire’s position on the COVID stage, Sununu halted the stay-at-home order on June 15, thus allowing restaurants to open for indoor dining at 50 percent capacity. It was around this time that Delgadillo decided to re-open.
As a result of the unexpected quarantine and restaurant restrictions that lasted the entirety of spring, many Manchester residents were eager to get out and support small businesses. The last place anyone wanted to be was at home.
Delgadillo and his staff are committed to following all protocols to keep their customers safe, including mask-wearing, sanitizing tables between visits and adequate spacing between tables, with alternate tables blocked off to allow for social distancing. Consuelo’s also offered limited outdoor seating last summer. Since reopening, Delgadillo has welcomed both familiar and fresh faces into Consuelo’s.
“It’s mostly regulars, but we still have some new people. Yesterday I had some people from El Paso, Texas, who recently moved to Manchester. Just the other day I had people from California and then another day I had people from Peru who moved to the area, and they found me.”
After a reassuring summer, business declined toward the end of the year, and especially in the winter, a time when fewer people are active in the city. Yet Consuelo’s remained open, and Delgadillo is prepared for another busy summer, as people continue to get vaccinated and cases decrease.
“I’m happy to hear the vaccine is available and that people are getting vaccinated,” said Delgadillo. “As soon as people get vaccinated and as soon as people stop getting infected … I think everything is going to get back, not the real normal because it’s going to take a while to get back to normal, but at least it will be more encouraging for people to go to businesses.”
He said he’s especially looking forward to recapturing the lunch crowd, but with so many people still working from home, he’s unsure if or when that will be. With the introduction of outdoor seating on Elm Street and people eager to distance themselves from their homes, many restaurants did surprisingly well last summer despite the lingering threat of a global pandemic. One year later, they’re ready for a second round of juggling wellness with business.
While the idea of normalcy is appealing for everybody, the reality is that the threat is still very real and it needs to continue to be taken seriously. Although Delgadillo is focused on the success of his business, the health of his customers and staff remains his priority.
“The business is a concern, of course; but from my own point of view, my main concern is the health of the people and the health of the world … I have concerns, but I don’t have worries. I say ‘You know what? This is my deal. I get up in the morning and I feel healthy. I look in my surroundings and everyone is healthy. Then I just do it; whatever comes.’”
Visit Consuelo’s Taqueria at 36 Amherst Street in Manchester, NH. They are open for Lunch and Dinner, Monday to Saturday.
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