by April Lisante
When the sign appeared near Bethlehem Pike about a week ago beside the bright lemon yellow-colored building, a frenzy began to build in Flourtown.
Could it be? Could we be so lucky? One observant Flourtown resident, Susan Nagy, spotted the sign and immediately took to Facebook to share the news: a new El Limon restaurant is in fact on the way.
“Yay! Getting close! Best mole sauce around!!!!” the post read. Within hours, the local Springfield Township Facebook page exploded. “I will be the first in line!!!” said one resident. “Time to order bigger pants!!!”
“Can’t wait!!,” another chimed in.
It is true. Local taqueria extraordinaire El Limon will open its 10th location this month at 810 Bethlehem Pike, and it is the best news Flourtown dining has had since the Movie Tavern began serving drinks and appetizers directly to our reclining cinema seats.
El Limon owners Karina Vargas, her husband Isaias Dominguez and business partners Manuel Carbajal Ruiz and Carmen Zepeda are pumped up and determined to bring the burrito mania to our neck of the woods by month’s end.
With a flagship location in Conshohocken, an always-packed Ambler joint on Main Street and seven others sprinkled across Montgomery and Chester counties, including Byrn Mawr, Ardmore and Paoli, the beloved Mexican food fiesta that is El Limon will breathe life into a quaint space on Bethlehem Pike beside Jiffy Lube. The space is the former home of the Flourtown Bakery, which closed a couple of years ago after being there for more than 30 years.
“We love to open restaurants and bring the food,” said Vargas, a high-energy millennial born in Costa Rica and raised in Philly. “Now we are franchising existing ones and ready to open new ones even after this.”
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m still reeling that I’ll soon have plates of burritos the size of Yule logs within a half-mile of my house. Smother them with the famous El Limon mole sauce, and I’m in heaven.
“It’s truly the best mole sauce I’ve ever had,” said Nagy, a psychotherapist who lives just around the corner from the new spot. “I’d use a ladle to eat it if I could.”
The legend that is El Limon began in 2010, when the four friends were working together at Coyote Crossing in Conshohocken. Dominguez was chef, Vargas worked the front-of-the-house, and Ruiz and Zepeda worked as servers. While Vargas is originally from Costa Rica, Dominguez, Ruiz and Zepeda all hail from Mexico. After working for years at Coyote Crossing, the perfect opportunity came along.
“My mother saw an empty place [in Conshohocken] and said to me, ‘You should open a taqueria,’” said Vargas. “We looked at the space, and by the next day we were all sitting down at a table talking about partnering.”
The concept was simple: serve fresh, inexpensive but high-quality Mexican food. Dominguez developed all the recipes and sauces, and a fiesta of flavors was born.
“We wanted it to be like a taqueria, where you can order more tacos, and you don’t have to wait to be served,” Vargas said.
The result was a hit. With no freezers in any of their restaurants to store food, everything is made to order and fresh. And with no liquor licenses, the BYOB atmosphere adds to the authentic family feel of their El Limon locations. Try hitting the Ambler location on Saturday night early because while the turnover is high, the wait can be out the door. The portions are monstrous, the salsa and guacamole are bottomless, and the chips are so authentic, you’ll feel like you’re at a beachfront bar in Playa del Carmen.
Another draw for locals is the laid-back, festive feel with simple, unadorned tables and a family-friendly noise level. The menu is simple. Mix and match burritos, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas and quesadillas with green, red or mole sauces. Throw in heaping portions of rice and refried beans. and the plates span nearly two place settings. The free margaritas don’t hurt either.
At the Flourtown El Limon, the traditional menu will be the same. Served in an airy space flanked by two fireplaces and wrap-around windows, it should prove to be a cozy, local hangout.
Two weeks and counting. I, for one, am counting the minutes – and dreaming about the burritos.
El Limon in Flourtown does not have a phone number yet, but the menu can be seen at ElLimonTaqueria.com/menu