Steamboat Springs Mauricio Vasquez Aux hopes Steamboat Springs is ready for some Latin flavor.
Vasquez is opening his South American carry-out and drive-through joint, Latino Flavor, at about noon today. The food is mostly Colombian with a bit of Venezuelan, he said. The 24-year-old is from BogotÃ¡, Colombia, and has been in Steamboat five years.
He has worked for Alpine Taxi and in kitchens at restaurants across town, he said. He's been working on opening Latino Flavor for about three months, which has meant some long hours.
"The hardest thing was to get all the permits, all the licenses was the hardest part," Vasquez said. "You have to spend time and work on it."
Latino Flavor takes the place of Merchant of Sandwich, which closed in December. Vasquez is renting the 12-by-15-foot building off U.S. Highway 40 next to Grease Monkey in west Steamboat. He saved some money for the venture and borrowed some from his mother, Mery Aux.
His menu advertises typical South American food. Vasquez expects the empanadas and arepas - corn patties that come with meat - to be popular. He also offers U.S. fare with a twist. His hamburger has pineapple salsa, for example, and the hot dog comes topped with a quail egg.
His favorite is the chicken sandwich.
"It's not like the regular sandwich you deep fry and put with the bread," Vasquez said. "We cook the chicken and boil it, and after that we shred it and put mayonnaise and onions. We make a different sandwich."
The restaurant's hours will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Prices range from about $3 for a ham sandwich or an empanada to $9 for a "super" hamburger, which has two quail eggs on top.
Vasquez isn't worried that people will be wary of unusual food. He promises that quail eggs are better than chicken eggs, but he can't quite explain why. People will just have to try the food, he said.
"A lot of people don't know about South America," Vasquez said. He has had to tell people that he won't serve burritos or tacos from his window.
"It's not Mexican," he said.
Vasquez has experience with food beyond his restaurant gigs in Steamboat. He used to help Aux, who has run a restaurant in Colombia for 20 years. She is in town for a couple of months to help Vasquez get rolling.
This is Aux's second time in Steamboat. Vasquez said he'd like to take her around to have some fun, but he expects to be busy.
"We're going to try, but we're kind of short on time to do vacations," Vasquez said with a chuckle. "We've got to take care of this first."
The small stand is decorated with a few knickknacks from Colombia - straw hats and a clock shaped like the country. There's still no Latino Flavor sign outside. It was supposed to arrive Monday, but Vasquez said he got "bad news" on that front and would just have to open without it.
Is his mother excited about opening day with her son?
"SÃ, claro," Aux said.
Translation: Of course.