At This Mexican Restaurant, Everyone is Family

When Ivy Berubes, 22, orders a Shirley Temple at the Sarapes Mexican Restaurant bar, they make it for her even though it’s not on the menu. The menu also doesn’t list “The Tommy Bowl” — a deconstructed burrito — but Tommy Agramonte, 20, gets to order it; after all, it is named after him. Sade Guess, 21, swears by the birria tacos, another off-menu item.

Located in Enfield, a quiet Connecticut suburb near the border of Massachusetts, Sarapes is owned and operated by the Chavez Mellado family, who immigrated from Mexico in the 1980s.

“It’s one of the reasons why we’ve been able to maintain ourselves in this country,” said Adrian Martinez Chavez, the photographer for this story, whose grandparents Eduardo Chavez Solano and Cutberta Mellado de Chavez started the restaurant. His grandfather passed away a few years ago; Adrian’s grandmother and his aunt María Del Carmen Chavez run the place now, and his cousins Xochitl and Zuyuani Llanas, 22 and 20, are both managers.

What keeps these 20-somethings coming back to Sarapes is not just the secret(ish) menu items or the occasional impromptu conga line that snakes around the booths. The space is a physical reminder of their kinship. When they come home to Sarapes, they can return to where they started.

“My cousin called it ‘the headquarters’ because that’s where we would always meet to talk about stuff,” Xochitl said.

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