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Food truck-turned-restaurant model helps taco shop roll into Lebanon Mall

  • John Lippman. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 9/12/2020 9:46:17 PM
Modified: 9/12/2020 9:46:15 PM

Eddie Moran, whose Taco’s Tacos food trailer was a must-stop for savoring fresh tacos, handmade tortillas and tamales, has grabbed a permanent parking spot.

After nearly an eight-month hiatus when he took time off, Moran has opened Lalo’s Taqueria in the former Lebanon Diner space on the Lebanon Mall, bringing back the culinary artistry he pioneered in Mexican street food with a hipster edge into a sit-down and takeout location.

The former diner, owned by Karen Liot Hill and Andy Hill, never reopened after being forced to close during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve wanted something like this for a while,” Moran said last week, taking a break after unpacking and testing his new taco-rolling and -cutting machine. A year-round location that doesn’t depend upon finding available parking or the weather has decided advantages, he said.

“It makes it a destination. Plus I get to cook through the wintertime,” Moran said.

Moran, whose family owns Gusanoz in the Miracle Mile Plaza, launched what one reviewer described as “delicious as it is cute” turquoise-painted Taco’s Tacos food trailer three years ago and quickly won loyal fans in the Upper Valley. An earlier attempt to take over the former Polka Dot diner space in White River Junction — subsequently occupied by Phnom Penh Sandwich Station — didn’t come together, but Moran said he couldn’t be happier now to be amid Lebanon’s growing diverse food culture.

Lucky’s Coffee, Marsh Brothers, Phnom Penh, Pim’s Thai,” Moran mentioned, ticking off new eateries that have opened in the heart of the city in recent years. “There’s a lot happening here.”

Lalo’s Taqueria is the latest Upper Valley venture to make the jump from food truck/trailer and farmers market stall to restaurant. Others include SamosaMan in Hanover, Juel Modern Apothecary Cafe in White River Junction and The Karibbean cafe in Lebanon.

Food trucks, by being small and nimble, “are a good way to test concepts, try something out, take time to develop it and use social media” to build a following, explained Moran, who graduated from Lebanon High School in 2005 and learned his trade at Gusanoz and in kitchens out West before returning to the Upper Valley.

Moran had Dover, N.H., artist Sam Paolini paint a colorful mural cross one wall of the restaurant — the theme is chickens and corn, two essential ingredients in his cuisine — and White River Junction tattoo artist Brian Barthelmes, who last year opened his Standard Company Tattoo studio, design the restaurant’s sign depicting a strutting rooster.

He’s also stocking a full line of Jarritos sodas, the popular Mexican beverage with such fruity flavors as mango, watermelon, guava, tamarind and pineapple.

Although the restaurant will allow him to offer more menu options, Moran said fans of his food trailer — which he has discontinued — can expect what they have enjoyed.

“I’m going to keep it simple,” he said.

Lalo’s Taqueria’s hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesdays.

West Fairlee general store reopens under new owner, new name

The list of towns in the Upper Valley that have lost general stores in recent years — Grafton, Quechee, Cornish, Tunbridge, Enfield, Chelsea, to cite a few — runs long. In the age of ruthless corporate chains like Dollar General and Walmart, the locally owned general store is largely a thing of the past.

So it’s welcome news that Erin Cilley, who managed the B & B Cash Market in West Fairlee, has bought the store from Mary Dan Pomeroy, the widow of late owner Mike Pomeroy, who passed away last year.

Mary Dan Pomeroy earlier this summer put up for sale the three general stores she ran with her husband, including Village Store in Thetford Center and Baker’s General Store in Post Mills.

Cilley purchased the West Fairlee store, which she had renamed Erin’s General Store, along with West Fairlee resident Dustin Hill, and was targeting a “limited opening” on Friday, Sept. 11, while still awaiting on her alcohol and tobacco licenses. Hill has been helping Cilley fix up the store with building renovations and a new coat of paint.

“We’re going to start similar to the way we were. We’re going to make sandwiches. We have plans for a deli. And hoping to bring in hunting licenses, bait,” said Cilley, who worked at the store since 2014 and before then at the Pomeroys’ store in Post Mills.

Actually, Cilley noted, her purchase of the store is a return to the family business: Her aunt and uncle, Deborah and Phillip Ricker, along with her grandfather, Warren Carpenter, once owned the market and her parents lived in one of the two apartments above the store.

The family tradition continues. Cilley’s mother, Rebecca Durkee, will also join in at Erin’s General Store.

“I was born and raised in West Fairlee. I’ve run the store for a long time and got very good connections here. I know everybody in town. We have a really strong support to get it open again,” Cilley said, in what I can only describe as an understatement.

Cilley also hopes to offer gas service again, although the store’s old tanks had to be removed last year for environmental reasons.

But just having the store reopen will be welcomed in town.

“This has been the only thing in West Fairlee,” Cilley said. “Having it now open for older people or people who come for their morning coffee ... it’s been just a blow to the town not to have that.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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