April 2021

example, loadedwith pulled pork, pico, grilled onions, chipotle and avocado crema). His breakthrough, business-wise,was introducing a Mexican tradition to the San Diego market. “At Mexicanweddings, it’s tradition to have a snack at two or three in the morning,”he says.“People here loved it. The bride would be in a wedding dress munching on a hot dog, the groom had mustard on his tux. I’d be the cheapest thing at their wedding, but the best thing.” In September 2019 he pulled the trigger on his first brick-and-mortar, a tiny storefront on a prime corner of Imperial Beach. He didwell through the winter, but for businesses in IB, sunlight is money. Come March, he was primed for the large beach crowds to return and pad the rainy-day coffers. Pier South Resort across the street was sold out the comingweekend; he was booked to serve hot dogs at the Padres’ opening day. Then, pandemic. Over the next month, 92weddings canceled.“The beach was a ghost town,”he says. He started Help the Helpers, a campaignwhere people could buy a catered meal to go to a front-line worker, and Doggos Gus would match it with a second. “We got to feed them and it helped me keep my employees,”he says, noting that most of his employees are first-generation Mexican American. Over in City Heights, a beloved butcher felt the

pinch last year as restaurant traffic slowed to a trickle or dried up completely. The son of a butcher, Hani Ilaian was raised in Bethlehem before immigrating to the US. He found a job at a corner grocery store catering to the city’s Middle Eastern community. Forty years later, he and his son Al own and operate not just Mid-East Market, but also a ranch in Poway where they raise goats, lambs, and bee colonies. By doing so, they know the meat they sell is from animals that were completely grass-fed and raised humanely.Much of their meat is halal,which is widely regarded as the most humane way to produce and harvest meat. Looking a bit like a young Jeff Goldblum, Al shows me the walk-in refrigerator where fresh carcasses hang. Some of the whole animals will be sold

“My English was worse, but the restaurant culture made everything

easy. You make tips every day;

many times you get free food. After your shift you have a beer with the cooks. My coworkers ended up being my friends, roommates, and groomsmen.”



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