WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — If the pandemic has shut the doors of many long-standing businesses, it has made new businesses learn what they are made of and how to adapt and survive. That couldn't be truer for one local Puerto Rican restaurant that just opened its doors February and has fought to keep them open.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, El Mata Munchies or The Munchie Killer has a lot to celebrate. The restaurant in West Palm Beach is a hot spot for Puerto Ricans.
The name "Munchie Killer" is because people get the munchies.
"It's a famous word," said owner Eddie Rivera.
A color sea of red, white and blue umbrellas dangle from the ceiling and dining tables are surrounded by Puerto Rican flags and souvenirs from the island. On one side of the restaurant, a handcrafted wood mural of the flag with LED lights is front and center.
"All that wood is handcrafted by me," said Rivera.
You may not have known this restaurant existed because, before this year, it didn't.
"We grew from the food truck when we were just having the street food," added Rivera.
Rivera set up a white food tuck, tent and picnic tables on the corner of Southern Boulevard and Military Trail for years. This year, he wanted to open up a permanent spot to share his heritage. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
"That was a rough ride. We had several employees we had to let go," said Rivera.
But his roots in the food truck industry made him a master at take-out and delivery.
"We're famous for our tripleta and our munchie fongo," added Rivera.
Ah yes, the mofongo, a Puerto Rican delicacy; garlic flavored mashed fried plantains mixed with pork usually but every chef puts his own spin on it.
"Very fattening," laughed Rivera. "If you're into health, you're in the wrong place."
El Mata Munchies has the food, the art and the history. On one wall, a design created in Puerto Rico with a collage of 189 photos artistically portray famous landmarks, artists, and culture representations the island is known for.
"To the famous coqui," pointed Rivera at Puerto Rico's famous coqui, a brown frog named after the sound it makes as it sings when the sun goes down in the island. It is native to the island and is a symbol of Puerto Rico.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, Rivera has a lot to celebrate and he plans to keep expanding, creating more Puerto Rican businesses to share with Palm Beach County.
"We have people come from all different cultures, diversities, denominations, backgrounds, and that's the way we want to keep it," added Rivera.
Hispanic Heritage month runs from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15.