How this new snack bar honors a different aspect of Mexican culture in Columbus
During Monday’s lunch hour Columbus resident Carly Hester walked into the colorful Snacks Chabelita for something new to eat.
Hester had heard about the new Mexican snack bar from her boss who urged her to get lunch from the new business. Along with her boss raving about how he’s begun eating Snacks Chabelita regularly, Hester had also seen numerous posts praising the eatery on the Columbus, GA Foodies Facebook page.
She was impressed the moment she walked into the snack bar on Warm Springs Road. The ambiance features snacks, woven baskets and bags, flags hanging above the long counter separating customers from where the food is prepared. A glowing, blue sign positioned on the far wall that customers can easily see when they walk inside reads, “You are exactly where you need to be.”
Hester is even more excited when Snacks Chabelita’s manager, Jogel Ramirez, confirms the business is family-run.
“That’s awesome,” Hester exclaims before making her order.
Angelica Sanchez, Ramirez’s aunt, opened Snacks Chabelita on March 10 with the goal of honoring her 9-year-old daughter, Isabella, and bringing another aspect of Mexican culture to Columbus.
More than just fajitas and tacos
The idea for the snack bar began by creating many of the items for friends and family who would visit Sanchez’s home for parties or get-togethers, she said. A lot of her visitors liked the food, so Sanchez began selling products out of her home.
Sanchez began supporting the home business on local social media pages, and eventually clients would approach her to make certain products and the business grew until they could open the physical location next door to Fiesta Mexican Bar and Grill.
When Sanchez saw the success of her home business, she realized there was a demand for more Mexican cuisine in the United States beyond what is typically sold at Mexican restaurants.
Customers can try elotes and esquites, which are both corn-based products. Elotes are corn on the cob with mayo cream sauce garnished with chili powder, cheese and lime, while esquites are corn mixed with creamy mayonnaise with cotija cheese, lime juice and chili powder.
“In Mexico you’ll see elotes, street corn, all around us in towns and stuff,” Raymundo said.
Another popular product is the piña loca, which is a variety of fruit served in a hollow pineapple. People also enjoy the different flavors of aguas de frutas, Sanchez said, which are drinks flavored with real fruit including pineapple, watermelon and cantaloupe.
Sanchez likes that she can provide Columbus with something different than tacos or burritos. Snacks Chabelita sells items that people typically don’t see around Columbus, she said.
The colorful nature of the food and the creativity put into the presentation of the items are what she believes draws people in who are not familiar with this type of cuisine.
“We are bringing Mexico to you,” Sanchez said. “We are bringing a little taste of what we bring from our country to you, so everybody can have a try of our authentic food.”
Inspired by Chabelita
Sanchez, supported by her husband, Antonio Raymundo, wanted to start a business to help Isabella, who is autistic. Her daughter has always wanted to own a business when she grew up, and Sanchez hopes to pass the business down to her one day.
“(My daughter’s) name is Isabella,” Sanchez said through a translator. “But in Mexico they call Isabella, Chabelita.”
Since opening Snacks Chabelita, Isabella often joins Sanchez and Raymundo when they work on the weekends. She often hands out tickets and does other small jobs in the restaurant. The experience is helping Isabella come out of her shell, Sanchez said.
“Sometimes kids who have autism have a hard time opening up,” she said. “(They have trouble) having new conversations. Isabella is getting better at reading tickets, talking to clients and bringing out food.”
Ultimately, the business is about Isabella, Sanchez said, and she hopes that other individuals who are autistic or disabled can be inspired by Snacks Chabelita and know that they are able to do anything they put their minds to.
“Let (children with autism) get involved in everything,” Sanchez said. “Because they might not be able to do this thing, but they’re always able to do something else.”