South Bronx restaurant turns into soup kitchen to help poor

Full Screen
1 / 10

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Natalia Mndez cooks in the kitchen of La Morada, an award winning Mexican restaurant she co-owns with her family in South Bronx, Wednesday Oct. 28, 2020, in New York. After recovering from COVID-19 symptoms, the family raised funds to reopen the restaurant, which they also turned into a soup kitchen serving 650 meals daily. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK – The special dish at La Morada, a small Mexican restaurant in the Bronx, varies from day to day: Perhaps it’s enfrijoladas, handmade tortillas covered with black bean sauce and pico de gallo. Or beef with a side salad.

One thing doesn’t change: It’s free.

The family-run restaurant, which opened in 2009 and has won Michelin acclaim for its Oaxacan food, has also served as a soup kitchen during the pandemic. In addition to serving paying customers, it makes about 650 meals a day for the unemployed, New Yorkers who live without gas and can’t cook, older adults or the disabled.

The Mexican owners of the restaurant are activists who speak up in defense of immigrants without authorization to live in the U.S. — a sign, “No Deportations,” hangs behind the door.

They describe the soup kitchen as fulfilling work.

“We always say that activism is our secret spice, so I feel like it was just very natural for us to serve the community with what we have,” said Yajaira Saavedra, 32, co-owner of the restaurant with her parents. “It also goes back to our Indigenous roots when we all pitched in, gathered small ingredients and made a big pot as a meal.”

The Bronx is among the areas hardest hit by the virus. When La Morada’s soup kitchen opened in April, people lined up in the street and 200 soups were gone in less than an hour, the family said.

“We realized the necessity was huge. The next day, without thinking, we cooked double,” said Saavedra’s mother, Natalia Méndez.