Bowing to mounting pressure from the Mexican and Latinx community members, owners Brian and Sarah Ingram of Elotes Woodfired Cantina have agreed to drop the word “elotes” from the new restaurant’s name. Soon after the restaurant was announced to take over the former In Bloom location inside the Keg and Case food hall, concerns were raised about the restaurant’s ownership structure not including any Latinx individuals and appropriating Mexican culture.
Their concerns solidified around the use of “elotes.” In a petition demanding the name change that, as of today garnered 232 signatures, organizers stated, “The problem is not cooking their interpretation of Mexican food, it’s the name of this restaurant that is problematic and unacceptable.”
Elotes, corn, is sacred, according to the protestors. “We honor our ancestors for creating a food that is deeply connected to the roots of our heritage and culture.” Elotes, the dish of roasted corn topped served charred on the cob, is one of many dishes on the menu. To other Mexican business owners, the dish is a fundamental part of their culture and heritage.
The smell of charred husks and sweet corn is indelibly linked with some Mexican owned markets, in particular El Burrito Mercado. The Mexican market, bakery, catering operation, and restaurant was built by Mexican immigrants, Tomás and Maria Silva. That business began by feeding other immigrants, selling elotes and other family-recipe made dishes since 1979, when it was next to impossible to find fresh tortillas in St. Paul. Their daughter Milissa Diaz, a part of the next generation of owners at El Burrito, located in the Latin-dominated District del Sol two miles away, arrived at Keg and Case last night, arrived with Mexican hot chocolate, tamales, and cookies, to share with protestors. She said, “I brought food to support my brothers and sisters. I’m pleased and Ingram‘s decision And I hope we keep the conversation going as a community about cultural culinary appropriation.”
The Ingram’s had heard, prior to opening the business for its first night, that concerns were mounting and that protestors were planning to descend upon the business at 6 p.m. Thursday night. They stood outside on West 7th Street and listened to those who had arrived and responded to concerns by changing the restaurant’s name, logo, and website, and worked to remove signs. At one point, Sarah Ingram became so upset, she was moved to tears, listening and in turn apologizing to the small crowd outside the eatery.
The restaurant’s official statement regarding the change reads, “We believe everything good starts with a meal. Our mission is and will continue to be bringing people together over quality food while serving others and giving back to the community. We have listened to concerns from members of our community over the name of our restaurant and taken immediate action and changed the name of our restaurant to Woodfired Cantina. Our goal is to make food that brings people together. We are here to listen and learn.”
Woodfired Cantina will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.