I have to admit, I have a huge soft spot for mom-and-pop restaurants. You know exactly which type of places I’m speaking of – the ones with the eldest son tending the cashier, grandma cooking in the back, the daughter baking the desserts and the father running the day-to-day maintenance work. These often times small yet charming establishments remind me of the liberties this nation provides, paving the way to a cross-cultural and assimilated society. OK, that’s enough pro-American rhetoric for the time being.

Needless to say, I found the mom-and-pop restaurant in Rochester, and it happens to be right in UR’s neck of the woods. Located near the corner of E. Henrietta Road and South Avenue, Paola’s Burrito Place and Mexican Grill provides one of the most authentic Mexican meals can you find in the city of Rochester. This tiny “hole in the wall” puts Taco Bell, Don Pablo’s, The Mex and any self-proclaimed authentic Mexican restaurant to shame. Paola’s is located in a miniature food plaza consisting of Mr. Shoes Pizzeria and New Number One Garden, and every time I venture to that nook and cranny I feel as though I’m visiting the United Nations of foods – Mexican, Italian and Chinese foods all represented within 20 feet of each other.

As soon as you walk in, actual Spanish music is consistently playing. And it’s not the Shakira or Gloria Estefan “Born in the USA” Americans are used to. These are songs from Mexico and other Latin American countries that millions of Hispanics identify their mothers listening to on Saturday mornings. This is something only us Latinos will understand, and I love it.

Every time I dine at Paola’s, I have this obsession with trying something different off their menu. From giant burritos – and when they say giant, they mean gargantuan – to their quesadillas – sheer embarrassment for Douglass’ – to their renowned fajitas, to the most amazing draw of it all: their free, all-you-can-eat tortilla chips with homemade salsa, Paola’s offers a variety of options for food pleasure seekers. My favorite platter is, without question, their ground beef burrito. Note: if you’re going to eat at Paola’s, make sure to go on an empty stomach. For a mere $6 you will have enough food for lunch and then some for dinner – just ask for a box to go. The service is always polite; they prepare the food fresh and within site and even bring it to your table for you. Moreover, if there’s something you’d like that is not on the menu, just ask them and they’ll do their best to prepare it for you. Be wary Taco Bell, Paola’s burrito is claiming its post in Rochester and it isn’t going anywhere, especially since it’s open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Buitrago is a member of the class of 2007.

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