More than just Mexican

Somewhat off the beaten path, in the same shopping center as Kmart and Peking, sits a hidden gem of a Latin restaurant: El Sabroson. The eatery opened in December 2012 as an extension of the adjacent Tu Tienda gift shop, where customers clamored for a sit-down dining expansion.

"It's a little bit different than the other Mexican restaurants," said Dustin Kilgore, one of the restaurant's co-owners.

El Sabroson combines influences from Peru, El Salvador and Mexico, roots Kilgore said the cuisine shares with many Williamsburg residents.

Restaurant co-owner and Kilgore's husband, Pedro Ramos, hails from Peru.

"We try to make our food homemade," Ramos said.

The Peruvian influence is something Kilgore said is already popular in bigger cities.

"Peruvian's really starting to pick up here," he added.

All three cultural influences add something unique to the restaurant's menu.

"All three are totally different," Kilgore said. "Mexican food is the more known of the Latin foods."

He said many Americans tend to gravitate toward the Americanized style of Mexican food. Other menu options allow them to branch out once they're in the door.

The dishes from Peru and El Salvador tend not to be as spicy as their Mexican counterparts. Peruvian food, for example, features more Asian influences, like the incorporation of soy sauce and rice.

"Peruvians get a lot of their inspiration from Asia," Kilgore said.

The menu regularly rotates, and the buffet offerings change every day. Items like taquitos, tacos, quesadillas and potatoes are common to see.

The restaurant's crew features people with eight different nationalities, including Peru, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Ramos helps bring a necessary cultural perspective to the menu.

"I bring the experience of a restaurant business," Kilgore said. He also runs Bodega Rio Bravo on Capitol Landing Road, and he's operated a similar booth at the Williamsburg Outlet Mall in the past as well.

Prior to opening El Sabroson, he was friends with most of the cooks. He recalled hanging out at their homes and enjoying their food.

"Another thing that sets us apart: We're not a chain," Kilgore said.

The location, fairly far removed from the major hubs of Williamsburg, makes for a slight challenge in the battle for attracting business.

"It's slowly picked up over the years," Kilgore said. "We're hidden. We're not on the main street. It's mostly about word of mouth."

Ultimately, he hopes the restaurant encourages people to step out of their comfort zones in regards to their taste buds, exploring dishes like the pollo saltado, chicken sauteed in a soy sauce with onions, tomatoes and fresh cut potato wedges served alongside rice.

"We try to tell the newcomers, 'Try and get something you can't get at the other Mexican restaurants,'" Kilgore said.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
79°