by Deborah Miller
If you weren’t paying attention, you’d almost miss La Cacerola Café and Restaurant, tucked as it is between the Latino Super Market and Guess Road Mini Mart. The three of us were celebrating a special date, and no ordinary lunch would do for this occasion. Though rescheduled from the actual anniversary date, the sentiment was still strong. You see, it was 3 years since Frances O’Roark Dowell, a curious writer of young adult fiction had inquired about volunteer opportunities with NC Folk, and she had turned into our star volunteer. You can’t let that come and go with just any old lunch. Adventure called and we answered.
A sign on the front door advised us not to park in the lot, so once the car was safe, we queued up at the counter reading the menu of Honduran specials as a warm, smiling, and very patient young woman waited for us to decide. She was immediately helpful and quick to offer that almost everything had a vegetarian option. Choosing was not easy. Since we were celebrating, we each ordered from the “Favorite Snacks” side of the menu, along with an entrée (that includes three sides of your choice) which turns out to be an enormous amount of food. Go hungry. Go with others so you can share. Be prepared to take some home.
The Sorto family opened La Cacerola in 2012. Ethel Mariee, the daughter of the Sorto family, began bringing out plates of Pupusas served with cabbage salad and pickled onions. A Salvadoran tradition, pupusas are little tortilla pies stuffed with either quesillo (little cheese), chicharron (fried pork/rinds), refried beans or a combination. Dishes kept coming.
Pollo con Tajadas for me.
Yuca con Chicharron for Joy.
Tacos Doraditos for Frances.
In the corner, a muted TV was tuned to a Hispanic station, but what came through the loudest was the quiet satisfaction of the other diners enjoying that one hour lunch break to the fullest.
Ethel Mariee (her pronunciation of Mariee was a musical “Mare-E-Aye”) smiled humbly and hurried to get her father when asked if we could write about La Cacerola and her family. We agreed to communicate through email so she could get about the business of feeding everyone who walked in the door.
This is her story.
My parents, Randolfo Sorto and Rosa Godoy, brother, 2 sisters, myself and our respective families are asylees. We moved to the US from Tegucigalpa, the capital of the Republic of Honduras, because our lives and our families were in danger in Honduras. Unfortunately there have been too many political issues in my country in the last ten years, and we were a victim of them too.
We’ve been in the US for a little over three years now. We opened the restaurant in April 2012, almost two years ago. When we moved from Honduras we first came to Durham, and then decided to move to Cary, where we currently reside.
We owned restaurants in Honduras for the last 20 years until we moved here. That is why we decided to open one here; also because we notice there were no authentic Honduran restaurants in the area, so it was the perfect business opportunity. The first year was hard; we needed people to get to know our food, and now they do and they love it.
I asked if they have incorporated products (meats, vegetables, etc) from North Carolina into their recipes and if they have had to adapt family recipes because they are unable to get specific ingredients locally.
We buy all our produce locally. We like to use fresh ingredients in our meals. I do not know for sure how many of those are actually grown in North Carolina though.
North Carolina is a culturally diverse state, so we haven’t had trouble finding all the products and ingredients we need, and that is a blessing. There are some fruits that we import from Central America and we are very lucky that one of our providers brings every fruit we need from there. We also bring the fish, red Tilapia, from Honduras, because the specific variety we traditionally eat cannot be found locally.
Personally, we’re so glad you opened in Durham, NC, Mariee and family!
La Cacerola Café and Restaurant
2106 Guess Rd.
Deborah Miller, Program Administrator at the North Carolina Folklife Institute and keeper of Simmer2Sizzle, is a native Tar Heel and lifelong foodie with a deep passion for music.