Pilar's on West Liberty
New space designed mostly for carryout.
by Sally Mitani
"I would like to think of people walking or biking up to my restaurant," says Sylvia Nolasco-Rivers, who in late November opened Pilar's Tamales in the space on West Liberty vacated when Tienda la Libertad moved to a larger spot a few doors down. It's not just that biking and walking are green--she's worried about the parking. There isn't much, and she shares it with two other takeout businesses that are also likely to be busy at lunch and dinner: Chan's Garden and Faz's Hello Pizza. Her worries are probably unfounded. There's plenty of parking at Tienda, the warehouses behind the minimall, and, at least for now, at the empty Fresh Seasons Market next door.
Nolasco-Rivers has been marketing her tamales since 2000 by cart, by catering, and briefly at a cafe on South State. The business is named after her aunt Pilar Garay, who came to Ann Arbor in the early eighties seeking asylum from El Salvador's civil war.
Pilar's Tamales, not quite open at press time, will feature, of course, her ample Salvadoran tamales, which--along with a spicy cabbage salad, casamiento (organic beans and rice), and hibiscus tea--is a favorite lunch at her cart at the Farmers' Market. Another Salvadoran specialty is the pupusa, a corn tortilla filled with cheese and other ingredients and grilled. "I call it a Salvadoran pizza," Nolasco-Rivers says.
Though she can seat a small number of diners, her space is designed mainly for carryout. She'll open at 7 a.m., when she will be serving a slightly sweet Salvadoran breakfast bread, topped with feta cheese and sesame seeds, and locally roasted Roos coffee. And she'll offer takeout "family meals"--generously portioned meals for six, for $60. Will she still be operating her cart at the Farmers' Market, too? "Oh heck, yes. I couldn't let those people down. They expect me to be there. That won't change at all."
Pilar's Tamales, 2261 W. Liberty. 829-9978. Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Closed Sun. www.pilarscatering.com
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[Originally published in December, 2009.]