Posted: December 8, 2020 Cooking up Mexican Food with Intention
Silly Serrano | 329 Riverfront Terrace, Eau Claire | (715) 514-4300
“I know I can go to Sam’s Club and get styrofoam takeout containers. It's the cheapest packaging that I can send out the door, but it makes my heart hurt,” said Sheila Arredondo, Owner of Silly Serrano, a Mexican restaurant in downtown Eau Claire. Instead, the restaurant uses containers that are recyclable. But the intentionality doesn’t stop there. From the containers to the restaurant’s homemade sauces, Arredondo and her husband, Executive Chef Juan Arredondo, are very deliberate about cultivating the Silly Serrano experience—an experience founded on Chef Juan’s commitment to make all of the food in house.
Cooking comes easy to Juan, said Arredondo. “He doesn’t like to look at a cookbook. He doesn’t like to watch cooking shows. . .I think he learned a lot from his mother—constantly seeing home cooked meals.” Arredondo said her favorite item on the menu is the Alambre, five corn tortillas topped with meat, sautéed onions and peppers, bacon, melted cheese, and salsa.
As someone who’s been gluten free for twenty years, Arredondo loves that 80 percent of Silly Serrano’s menu is gluten free. “We don't use any premade seasonings,” shared Arredondo, “because a lot of them have additives.” By making everything in house, Silly Serrano can confidently say exactly what's in the food. “We serve a lot of people with celiac disease who cannot have cross-contamination,” added Arredondo. When you think of Mexican food, you may not automatically think ‘healthy,’ but Arredondo said there’s a healthy flair to their food. “Some people love to eat greasy, grisly food. That's not us,” shared Arredondo, explaining how the restaurant carefully cleans and cuts its meat. “We try to cater to people who have dietary restrictions, or people who are just more thoughtful about what they eat.”
With backgrounds in the restaurant industry, the Arredondos always knew that opening a restaurant was an option, but when they moved back to Sheila’s hometown of Eau Claire, they didn’t have definite plans to open a restaurant. “We knew we wanted to do something for ourselves,” Arredondo said, “We wanted to be our own bosses.” Without forcing things, the Arredondos took a leap, open to whatever business opportunities presented themselves. When they saw their current space—329 Riverfront Terrace—they quickly settled on the decision to open a restaurant, naming it Silly Serrano, with hopes to manifest fun and silliness into the venture.
During the pandemic, the majority of Silly Serrano’s business is takeout or dine in. “Everybody has to stay healthy,” said Arredondo, “my husband has to stay healthy, our kids need to stay healthy, our babysitter needs to stay healthy, and our staff need to stay healthy.” Fortunately, Silly Serrano has a drive-thru window that Arredondo says, “nobody knew existed until COVID hit.” In addition to online ordering, call-in, and walk-in orders, people can simply drive up to the window and order. Customers can wait in designated parking spots while they wait for food to be delivered to their cars.
As takeout grows more popular, the stakes are even higher for restaurants. “You don't have a lot of chances when it's to-go,” said Arredondo, “it's got to be right. Our team has to be really diligent. If it says black beans, it's black beans. If it says no cheese, the cheese can’t be on there.” As a hybrid counter service/full-service restaurant, attention to detail is really important to Arredondo. “I love doing what I do because it’s easy to make somebody's day,” shared Arredondo. “I hope that when someone walks away, they can be like, ‘Wow! That was awesome customer service.’”
Although it’s tough to be a restaurant owner during COVID, Arredondo said, “You've got to stay positive. Every time you're given a challenge, it's an opportunity. . .Like every other place, we just keep trying to push through as much as possible. We are serving the public and we have to make sure that people feel good and feel safe.”
If you want to support Silly Serrano, one of the best and tastiest ways to patronize the restaurant is by ordering food. Arredondo recommends ordering the street tacos on Tuesday or the walleye special on Friday. Gift cards are also a great option, and a perfect gift for the person who doesn’t need anything. As Arredondo said, “Everybody loves food!”