Story by Sally Finnegan
“It was just something to do; a better future for my kids. We can try and see what comes of it.” Lilly Lugo decided to open a restaurant this past February because she was tired of being an employee; she would rather be a business owner.
Lilly began her career as an owner with Mi Carmelita’s Mexican Store, a Mexican grocery store on Perkins road. After opening the store, her oldest son wanted a restaurant so they opened Nana’s.
Located at 132 S. Main, Nana’s Mexican Kitchen is a restaurant that features authentic Mexican food. The recipes are from Lilly’s mother, whom her children call “Nana.” All the food on the menu comes from Lilly’s home city of Degollado in the Mexican state of Jalisco, where her mother taught her how to cook.
“It’s a family business—my husband, my mom, and me,” Lilly said.
Everything about Nana’s is centered on her family. Even the menu features names that are significant to Lilly and her family. Katalina’s quesadilla was named for her daughter Allison, who as a child would play under the table, eventually gaining the nickname Katalina, after her friend’s kitten.
Other dishes are named for her children, Enchiladas de China, La Guerra Tamales, and Chavi’s Torta. The Michoacán is named after her husband’s home, and Lilly’s Tacos are named for her recipe using a lettuce tortilla that she originally made while working at Texas Roadhouse.
Between the service and the food, Lilly really enjoys both cooking and interacting with customers—she likes that as an owner, she experiences aspects of both.
“I’m always running back and forth, so you’ll see me [in the front] or in the back,” she said.
Throughout the week, Nana’s menu has daily specials: on Sunday the buffet is $1.99 for kids, Taco Tuesday serves tacos for $1.50 each, and on Fridays they sell 7 beers for 12 dollars. There is a Mexican style food buffet, featuring food from many places in Mexico, every day at lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the week and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“I don’t just cook from where I am from, I cook from different cities,” Lilly said.
Every day from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Nana’s serves breakfast food including traditional Mexican food as well as other dishes Lilly created.
On their menu you’ll see something called “Spider Sauce.” Though it’s not actually made from spiders, it is a spicy favorite. Lilly said that once they had an employee who was telling a customer that they had spicy sauce, but she was accidentally saying “spider” sauce. It was so funny that it stayed!
Nana’s is a Mexican kitchen. She explained that a restaurant and kitchen are 2 different things. For example you won’t find taco salad at Nana’s; you’ll only find authentic ceviche, tacos, enchiladas, etc.
Other than “To-Go” and sit-down meals, customers can find authentic Mexican soda, import beers, tamales by the dozen, and homemade tortillas.
At Nana’s, Lilly explained, “you have a chance to come and try out different foods—authentic Mexican,” and not just another “Tex Mex” option.
You can find recipes like Nana’s Spider Sauce on Instagram.