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Wednesday April 23, 2014
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Hold the Parchment



with the words free-range, all-natural, grass-fed, and organic.

Owner Sylvia Nolasco-Rivers has already wooed and won a huge contingent of Ann Arbor eaters who first became familiar with her Salvadoran specialties by seeing her tamale wagon around town--and, since last year, on a regular basis at the Farmers' Market. Her new takeout-oriented restaurant on Liberty Street is her second go at a fixed location: Pilar's Cafe was open briefly on South State Street a few years back.

But Nolasco-Rivers' heart is clearly with her cart, which radiates an energetic, grassroots vibe. As she prepared to open her new cafe last November, she told "I am telling people who know me to pretend this is my cart."

That doesn't take too much imagination: Pilar's Tamale Shop has a highly provisional feel. Nolasco-Rivers has hung onto shortcuts that really don't belong in a restaurant with a roof and a door, and the food isn't any better for it. While her more sentimental fans will no doubt adore the restaurant's casual approach to cookery, newcomers are likely to be put off by its still-mobile mindset. On my first visit to Pilar's, horchata was being ladled out of a giant lidless storage bin, and a toddler was running pell-mell through the kitchen.

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