El Oso #ThinkGardinerFirst

“My son describes our store as using all your senses. You come in and you see all the color and shop around the gifts while you can smell the food throughout. It’s a little bit of everything. The gift shop has a mixture of locally made things and items I got when travelling back and forth to Mexico. A lot of the artwork is mine. All of them are personal pieces. All of the food is homemade, too. There’s all different types of authentic Mexican food, but this is kind of like homemade from a small town where your grandma is making the tortillas in the back. It’s a combination of food from my childhood that I used to eat when I was in Mexico with the new techniques I learned in Florida where

there’s a very diverse Hispanic community. In that way, the food we make is an art creation too. Mexican food or tacos are sometimes seen as a second or third class type of food. But the reality is that Mexican cuisine is so rich with flavor and the more poor you are, the more rich the dishes are.

My husband and I are both Mexican, but he is from Texas and I grew up in Florida where we both lived before this. He was an air conditioning technician and I taught elementary school and we lived a life that was expected for providing for our kids. But once they graduated high school, we wanted to be more independent and work for ourselves. We were tired of the area and moved up here to Maine. We had not planned to be in this area, but we just kind of ended up here. First we were in Hallowell, where I had the original gift shop. It was really busy so I did really well when we first opened, but then Coronavirus happened. We’ve been trying to open a restaurant since I was very young, but it just wasn’t meant to be until now. We were nervous. It was impossible to know what to expect but with the Chamber, the City, and the public, everyone has been very supportive and kind and welcoming. What had us nervous too, was the question of if people here were going to be open to new flavors and a more diverse type of food.

My favorite thing about having this shop is that it’s like being at home with my kids when they were little. If I had money, if I didn’t have money, if I was sad, if I was happy, whatever was going on I could cook for my kids and that’s what I was able to provide to them regardless of what was happening. Since they were little, we have always been in the kitchen cooking. They always helped making tortillas and chopping while my husband would put music on and everybody would just be talking and and having time together as a family. I guess this is kind of like a continuation of that right now. We’re completely new to the restaurant business so we are learning what everything needs to run smoother. 

We have a lot of ideas for things to do but Coronavirus has made that hard. As crazy as it sounds, things have just fallen into place for us and we let things happen as they are supposed to and we keep adjusting. We just bring a lot of pride and show that through the food.” 

Paola and her family have been a wonderful new addition to Gardiner’s downtown district. Visit El Oso Thursday-Sunday for some delicious home cooked Mexican food. You can reach El Oso by phone (207-588-7926), email (eloso19@protonmail.com), Facebook and Instagram (@ElOso207), or by visiting at 347 Water Street in Gardiner. #ThinkGardinerFirst