Señor Hoagies, which serves simply presented Mexican American food at reasonable prices, opened for service earlier this spring.
From the first day, the restaurant hit the ground running, with results that are largely what one might expect, says owner Socorro Gómez.
“At first it’s kind of busy with everyone stopping by but then everything falls into more of a routine,” she says.
Gómez and her husband, Alex García, own and operate the restaurant at 47 N. Prince St., a spot previously occupied by Cocina Mexicana.
Gómez’s sister, Lucila, is the owner of Cocina Mexicana, which recently moved to a larger location at 112 N. Water St.
For about six years, the couple managed Riviera Pizza at 1878 Lincoln Highway East, but wanted to open a restaurant in downtown Lancaster.
“When my sister-in-law moved to another location and this became available, we decided to do it,” says García.
Before opening on Prince Street, Garcia and Gómez oversaw some minor renovations, including repainting and the installation of new kitchen equipment. However, the space, a no-frills storefront, is still familiar in its layout, comfort food and friendly atmosphere.
The husband and wife team, and their sons, Diego, 14, and Oscar, 21, keep busy with the preparation and serving of food, maintaining inventory and resources, and interacting with customers.
“We try to get all our products from local suppliers. We have Central Market right here so our produce is fresh. We prepare our meats and make sure the food is fresh every day and tastes good,” he says.
Familiarity also abounds in the menu, with items that are simultaneously American and rooted in regional Mexican cooking.
“People see the restaurant and might assume it’s only Mexican food. That is not the case,” says García.
“We want everyone to feel welcome and find something delicious for each person in the family,” says Gómez. “We make Mexican food but we also offer platters that Alex learned to make since we arrived in the United States,” says Gómez.
Señor Hoagies has variety of hot and cold subs and wraps on its menu, including some made with avocado, chorizo and other ingredients used in traditional Mexican dishes.
“In this place we want people to have options, whether they crave tacos, hot or cold subs, or grilled chicken. We want families to come here and find what they want in one location,” says Gómez.
The most popular item on the menu is the soul-satisfying taco cheesesteak, a perfect blending of flavors and technique. It consists of chipotle sauce on the sub bun, a taco shell topped with steak and cheese, lettuce, tomato and tortilla chips.
“What makes it tasty is the chipotle sauce my wife makes here, mixed together with the meat. The sub is soft with a little bit of crunchy inside,” says García.
The taco de carnitas is another popular offering.
“It’s just regular Mexican taco prepared with the tortilla, meat, onions and cilantro. It’s a very simple thing but has a good taste because of the way we prepare the meat,” he says.
Also not to be missed is the milanesa de res or milanesa de pollo.
In Mexico, milanesa usually refers to the preparation method; any type of meat that is pounded thin, breaded and fried.
At Senor Hoagies, the milanesa is served with a layer of fresh avocados, tomatoes and cheese.
The menu includes affordable options, with tacos starting at $2.75 and the subs at $7. Entrees range from $9 to $12.
Mexican food has a long history and trajectory in the United States, but one cannot ignore the fact that there’s a huge diversity in the offerings. Each region in Mexico is known for its ingredients, flavors and a specific style of cooking.
“Our cooking is done with fresh ingredients and we do it from scratch just like in Puebla, where we are from,” says García.
Some of Mexico’s traditional foods involve complex or long cooking processes. Sauces and salsas, for example, are ground in a mortar called a molcajete. Today, although blenders are used more often, most people in Mexico would say that those made with a molcajete taste better.
“Some restaurants might use canned tomatillos, put it in a blender to turn it into a sauce and that’s it,” says Gómez.
“When I make the red sauce we use, for example, I use dried peppers just like they do in my town of Puebla. I use paprika to mix it up, jalapeño, tomatillo, and everything is fresh.”
In addition, there’s an important fact we must not forget, according to Gomez.
The ability to cook well, called "sazón," is not a skill that one learns by simply going to cooking school or working at a restaurant. In Mexico, it’s considered a gift, a talent. It goes beyond the ingredients. It’s flavor, and knowing that every dish is just right for the people who are going to eat it.
“Each person has his or her own sazón, a way to balance flavors, and that’s what makes a difference,” says Gómez.