Cooking up the American Dream
It was not an easy road for Freddie Garcia to achieve the “American dream” with Los Mayas.
Garcia opened his authentic Mexican restaurant during the coronavirus pandemic, which, combined with a young and inexperienced staff, led to understandable financial difficulties right out of the gate.
“It was a rough time,” Garcia said. “Throughout these two years we’re still having trouble finding people to work. But thanks to the support from the community for our small business, we were able to expand one-and-a-half years later.”
Despite difficulties, the original Los Mayas restaurant location at 100 Perry Highway, Suite 105, in Jackson Township has since expanded, and Garcia opened a second seasonal location in New Brighton in May. That location is closed during the winter, but will reopen in March.
“It was a rough time because it was hard to get some ingredients for us to cook. Even to get containers, plastic utensils and the aluminum foil plates. Not only hard, but places doubled and tripled the prices,” he said.” But we’ve made it.”
The rough time was manageable for a man with plenty of prior experience like Garcia, whose family owns El Campesino and Casa Amigos, other restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. He’s worked in the industry for 19 years both at his family’s restaurants and at Patron, another popular Mexican restaurant in the city.
His food is also authentic. Garcia immigrated to America from Mexico as a 15-year-old. He grew up in Guanajuato, a city about six hours northwest of Mexico City.
He cooks up tulum asado, a dish with ties to his youth, for diners at Los Mayas.
“That’s my favorite because it reminds me when I was little and we used to make this, as a family, for big soccer games on Saturdays or Sundays and the family would get together,” Garcia said.
The idea to move to America was rooted in education. As a teen, Garcia was struggling with his schoolwork in Mexico. His favorite subject was English, and that inspired him to want to continue his schooling in America.
So in 2000, he moved to America to be with family members who had immigrated into the country years before.
His first home was in North Carolina with his father, who was already living in America. Garcia moved to Pittsburgh a few years later as a 17-year-old when he started working at El Campesino.
“El Campesino was my family’s place, so this is different,” Garcia said. “It’s always been my American dream to own a restaurant. I’ve always been trying to learn how to own my own restaurant.
“When I saw the ad for this place, nothing was built. When I was looking through the window, the owner of the plaza walked by and asked what I was interested in putting there,” he said.” I told him I wanted to build a restaurant, and he helped us a lot with the construction.”
The restaurant in Creekside Plaza is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Weekend hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, while it closes at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.