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La Comadre - Mexican Home Cooking with a Family Touch

Writing by Danielle Silverman

Photos by Julio Vargas

When you walk into La Comadre, a cozy Mexican restaurant in Woodhaven, you feel like you are walking into your own home. That’s because the restaurant, opened in 2009, is owned and operated by four generations of the Ramirez family. Their mission: to be the “neighborhood restaurant”. This approach has served them well, especially through the challenging times of COVID.

For 11 years they built the business from the ground up, becoming an institution in their neighborhood. They grew by building relationships in the community and serving well priced, delicious, home cooking from Mexico. It really is home cooking because the family that makes the food and runs the restaurant is originally from Puebla, not too far from Oaxaca. 

Caro Flores is an expert in traditional cooking from the region, especially mole. Her sauce includes a unique combination of chiles, spices and other ingredients and is one of the restaurant’s big draws.  It takes two days for her to make it from scratch it’s so special that when someone else from the restaurant makes it, customers know right away it wasn’t her batch.  Caro’s mother, Angelica Morales is the restaurant’s other chef.  

The rest of the family plays critical roles at the restaurant. Angelica’s husband, Manuel Ramirez, makes sure the restaurant always looks great. One daughter, Angelica Ramirez, decorates the restaurant. Guadalupe Flores and Oyuky Ramirez work in the front of the house greeting and serving customers. They also work the grill and make the popular handmade quesadillas, fresh guacamole, and tasty tacos. Grandma Soccoro manages the restaurant, chats with customers and makes sure everything runs smoothly

La Comadre has a big menu. We tried the chilaquiles verdes, one with chicken and one with chorizo, guacamole, as well as Mexican sweet buns (conchas). A strawberry tiramisu type cake was yummy. Their most popular menu items are the handmade quesadillas with various fillings and the chicken enchilada with Caro’s mole sauce. The weekend special, goat barbacoa, sells out quickly.  

Things were going well but then in March 2020, as COVID swept through the Woodhaven community, they were faced with many challenges and choices. Could they stay open? Where could they get good ingredients? Could they afford their rent? Could they pay employees? 

By focusing on their core values: being the neighborhood family place, they powered through. They began to open at 5 a.m. to serve fresh bread and coffee to essential workers as they went to face the world. They stayed open until midnight to feed dinner to people coming home late. All hands were on deck but with COVID it was difficult for the restaurant to stay afloat. Many regular customers had lost their jobs; others were not leaving their homes. 

To help the business get back on their feet, La Comadre worked with Shahriar Hossain, a business recovery specialist from the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Shahriar connected them with Laura Licona, the QCC restaurant specialist, and the two worked side by side to assist. 

Laura visited the restaurant several times and helped organize invoices, cost their menu, and begin to do catering.  “I listened to their story and helped advise them in a way that would increase their revenue and their exposure. I helped give them the confidence they needed to grow.” said Laura. She also invited them to a series of small business learning and networking events, like the Queens Chamber of Commerce Queens Day and Citi Field Expo.  

Shahriar and Laura suggested they apply for Open + Online. It is one of the resources available to small businesses in Queens impacted by the COVID pandemic, as part of the NYC Small Business Resource Network, a comprehensive approach to assisting small businesses by offering personalized guidance as they open and reopen after the pandemic.

La Comadre, meaning godmother or the village women in Spanish, was offered the services of BentoBox, which helps restaurants with their online presence. It helped create a top-fight website allowing La Comadre to market itself more effectively and take online orders for delivery through DoorDash.  

On a recent Thursday morning, even before the standard lunchtime rush, the collaboration was visibly paying off. The Ramirez family was already pumping out orders received through the website.

“It feels really nice to help someone keep their dream afloat. This restaurant is a Woodhaven institution that has been operating for over a decade and I am so happy to be able to assist them,” said Shahriar. 

“Most of our customers are our everyday customers, so we know their faces. We want to bring in more people so they become everyday faces too,” said Oyuki. One regular is Jamie, whose family owns the market across the street, and who just started her own online florist business. She begins every day with breakfast at La Comadre.

For the Ramirez family, the restaurant is a dream come true. For years Angelica and Manuel cleaned buildings and did other manual labor to provide for their family. They decided to invest in something for the family’s future and now the sky is the limit. 

La Comadre is located at 7510A Jamaica Avenue, Queens, NY 11421. Phone: 347-561-3946.