Barbara Langley is a business columnist for The Examiner. Reacher at 816-350-3269.

It’s a lot more than tacos. Old Mexico Restaurant, 1032 E. 23rd St., has been an Independence mainstay since 1988 but not always at this location.

Bolivian-born Edgar and Silvia Barrios are the proprietors of Old Mexico Restaurant. This diversity adds even more culinary items to the menu. In addition to the family atmosphere, it’s the menu that makes the restaurant interesting with its selection of Bolivian dishes.

“Bolivian culinary includes more meat, potatoes, and rice than Mexican food has,” said Edgar. “Not too many beans like Mexican food. Bolivian hot sauce is different than Mexican salsa. Chips are not part of the Bolivian diet, but we serve them at the restaurant.”

Examples of a Bolivian dishes on the menu are Pique a Lo Macho and Aji de Pollo.  Edgar explained that Pique a Lo Macho is very hot and spicy. It’s made with fried potatoes, sausage, tenderloin, onions, tomatoes, and Jalapeños. Aji de Pollo is a sautéed chicken dish with onions, tomatoes, peas, rice, potatoes.

The usual Mexican fare is also on the menu: tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, burritos, margaritas, Mexican and domestic beer, salsa and chips, and other specials.

“Our customers are pretty loyal, almost like family, even in these economic times,” said Silvia. “There have been some changes seen in menu ordering. We have accommodated our customers by offering 99-cent tacos on Monday and Tuesday. People still want to go out and eat.”

Silvia said although the mortgage, utilities and supplies still have to be purchased, they have hope for the future. Recently the couple sold some real estate to use the proceeds as a cushion to get them through these unstable times.

New marketing

It’s mostly word-of-mouth advertising. Silvia said they are expanding into some new marketing ideas. They have a “nook” where they can hold private parties like birthdays, business luncheons, baby and bridal showers, and small weddings. They cater office parties/lunches and weekly cater a student lunch for St. Mary’s High School.

“Networking is part of being in business,” said Silvia. She belongs to several organizations, but not just for business, sometimes it’s just giving back to the community. She has sat on boards and has been a member of Independence Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club of Independence, HIRE, and CAPA.

The Barrios

It’s a working family affair, Edgar, Silvia, Rodrigo, and Rosa, and granddaughter, age 5, Isabella, always has a big smile for customers. Edgar came to the United States in 1976 and became a citizen in 2005. Silvia became a citizen along with son Rodrigo in 1996. In the 1980s, Edgar was working for a parking company and Silvia was employed for Bitterman Associates, which owns Hardee’s.

Edgar always felt comfortable in a kitchen and it was a friend that suggested the couple open a restaurant. In 1988 Edgar cashed in his 401(k) and purchased the Old Mexico Restaurant business at 1660 23rd St. They paid a monthly rent for the building. In 2002 they made the leap and purchased the current building next to Bank of America on 23rd Street.

Old Mexico seats 200 people. The company has three full-time and seven part-time employees. The restaurant is open from Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For further information, call Silvia or Edgar Barrios at (816) 461-1848.