A restaurant serving Central American street food — taquitos, papusas, and tostadas — wouldn't fly in Philadelphia, Sofia Deleon was thinking a couple of years ago.
Deleon, a native of Guatemala who moved to the United States for college and a career in food marketing, believed she had to soften up the market. And soften she did, starting her business — El Merkury — with Grubhub deliveries, weekly pop-ups at Garage and Fooda, and event catering.
Last week, Deleon, 28, took the plunge with an actual restaurant, taking the former Agno Grill at 2104 Chestnut St. It's counter service.
"There are so many Mexican restaurants, hoagie shops, Italian — nothing Central America," she said, explaining that the cuisine is steeped in Mayan traditions of corn, beans, chili, and chocolate (hence, a full dessert menu of churros).
"I also want to represent my country in a different light," she said. "What you hear about [her country] may be corruption and poverty, but I want people to know there's more."
Everything on the savory side of the menu is gluten-free.
Hours for now are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.