Local taqueria chef from Mission nominated for James Beard award

MISSION — Congratulations. It’s something that Ana Liz Pulido is going to have to get accustomed to hearing often now that she has received one of the top honors in the restaurant industry.

“Congratulations on the award, that’s why I came over here … I had to try this out.”

This is what an excited Len Cantu told Ana, owner and chef at Ana Liz Taqueria in Mission, at her restaurant Thursday afternoon. He had learned about her nomination as a semifinalist in the 2023 James Beard Foundation award in the Best Chef in Texas category and wanted to show his support.

“I’m a foodie so I was like, ‘I gotta go try it out,” Len said.

Living just a mile away from the restaurant, he plans on stopping by more often to try each item on the menu.

She’s going to have to get used to the new interest in her restaurant now too.

Ana opened her restaurant a year and nine months ago in May 2021 and has since seen plenty of business. Recent news of her nomination is just the proverbial cherry on top, given that the James Beard Foundation awards are considered among the most prestigious in the industry.

She explained that she owes a lot of her passion for the culinary arts to her dad, Armando Pulido, who often helps her in the restaurant.

Ana recalled Thursday how she used to help her father cook every New Year’s Eve.

“That’s when I started loving this,” she said with tenderness in her voice.

Her father now helps her cook the meats used in her menu. In fact, he arrives around two hours before opening to grill the fajita, bistec, carnitas and other meat.

When asked how he felt about his daughter’s nomination, Armando was to the point about his pride for her, saying he appreciated Ana making her own way.

Even though it’s been a few days since she’s learned about the nomination, she is still shocked and is trying to process the news.

“Mostly I can’t believe it,” Ana said in disbelief. “I never thought I would be nominated.”

The Vampiro taco at Ana Liz Taqueria, which is the best seller, is seen on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in Mission. The Vampiro is on a blue tostada with aguacate, cheese, fajita, onions, tomatos and cilantro. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Although the nominations were announced Wednesday she already saw an increase in customers wanting to try her food.

In fact, they had to close early Wednesday evening due to them selling out of food.

She and her three employees start their day at 7 a.m. to begin preparing the food for the day. The restaurant opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

They make each item from scratch including the tortillas used in the entrees. She explained that one of her most popular dishes is called “el vampiro” a blue corn tortilla topped with avocado, meat, cilantro, and pico de gallo.

She added that the restaurant is often packed around 6 p.m. until closing time at 10 p.m.

Although Mexican cuisine is a familiar sight in the Valley, Ana believes her food differs from other restaurants because of the unique twist she adds.

“I feel like I’m weird honestly,” Ana said jokingly. “I have some special menus that I come up with for Dia de los Muertos, Diez y Seis de Septiembre, and they’re things that you won’t see anywhere else.”

Her favorite item to make and eat is flautas.

Award winners will be announced Wednesday, March 29, where they will then go on to celebrate at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on Monday, June 5, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Open from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, Ana Liz Taqueria is located at 215 N. Conway Ave., Unit A, in Mission, and can be reached at (956) 591-0655 or on their Facebook.

To see more, view Monitor photojournalist Delcia Lopez’s full photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: Ana Liz Taqueria in Mission


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