Working their way up from a food truck to their very own restaurant has been a challenge and a dream come true for mother-daughter team Christine Louie and Ashley Hasse at the Mamas and the Tapas Café. With family recipes that have their special flare creating a fusion of flavors from the Caribbean, visiting this unique restaurant is a trip worth taking.
Before they opened the restaurant at 1317 Historical Plaza Way in Manteca, Christine and husband Doug owned the Mamas and the Tapas food truck where they gained a following and a number of regulars. They participated in a variety of different events throughout the 209 as well as did home catering from 2012 to 2017.
“People would hire us to bring the truck to their house,” said Christine. “That was really fun.”
Ashley worked on the food truck for a couple years and then ventured off to pursue other things within the restaurant industry. She also spent some time in culinary school and honed her craft.
Christine has spent many years in the restaurant industry beginning when she was a junior in high school, which is where she met her husband Doug. They had the idea to start a food truck and came up with the name that was a spin on the Mamas and the Papas American folk rock group.
After five years of serving guests through the food truck, Christine was ready to retire but then she stumbled onto the location at Historical Plaza Way. Christine and Ashley took a look at the place and Doug crunched the numbers and the Mamas and the Tapas restaurant came to fruition in 2017.
COVID changed everything for them as they went from a full-time booming restaurant with live music and events to a crew of five and limited hours.
“We are lucky to have made it through this,” expressed Christine. “We were so busy before this thing hit. We were going to the next level. We were doing really well. We had 16 employees and I had to lay every single person off. It was just me and her; then slowly we brought back a couple cooks and a server. No one wants to work anymore. It is sad.”
Fortunately their loyal customers and take-out helped keep them alive during the hard times. They perfected their “to go” business out of necessity, since originally they were primarily dine-in. These days due to a shortage of employees and cooks, their hours are limited and they suggest calling ahead or checking their social media pages like Instagram or Facebook.
“We are doing whatever we have to do to survive and stay open and serve our guests. Our priority is to get everyone served and have happy customers,” said Christine.
Christine is half Puerto Rican from her mom’s side that was the youngest in a family of 12. With love for the culture and cooking she learned how to make Puerto Rican dishes but they did not want to settle only on that, which is where the Caribbean fusion was created. The cuisine has a melding of flavors from Puerto Rico, Cuba and Jamaica.
The mother-daughter duo created the menu and they wanted to bring something unique to the 209 with their spin on the Cubano sandwich, tostones, cannon balls, jerk chicken tacos, empanadas, chicken flautas, and ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’ fries to name a few. They have some options for those with food restrictions like the vegan empanada or the jerk chicken tacos without the sauce and only the dry rub to make it gluten free.
“We give our own little flare to things,” said Christine. “People really like our food. It is very flavorful food. It is truly a mixture, a fusion.”
The Mamas Combo is a customer favorite that has an empanada, chicken flautas served with Puerto Rican rice, beans, and a side salad which gives diners a variety of items and flavors.
The Cubano Sandwich is another popular item on the menu that is slow roasted pork shoulder, thinly sliced ham with melted Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and garlic sriracha aioli served on a soft French roll with a side of tostones, sweet plantains, french fries, a side salad, or rice and beans.
The Cannon Ball is another top seller that is a Yuca Relleno made from buttery yuca balls stuffed with chorizo, beef, and cheese then rolled in panko and fried that is topped with their signature sriracha garlic aioli.
Their Empanadas come in three flavors, beef, pork, and vegan.
The Jerk Chicken Tacos are stuffed with Jamaican Jerk Chicken in a soft corn tortilla that is topped with cabbage cilantro lime aioli and mango salsa.
They make everything from scratch and sell their sauces by the jar including cilantro vinaigrette for salads, a cilantro lime aioli and a garlic sriracha.
For dessert the ladies make a bread pudding that is a family recipe with their twist that is a guest favorite. Christine explained that she has turned people that do not like bread pudding into a fan of her bread pudding that is served hot with a buttery rum sauce on top.
Breakfast is served until 11:30 a.m. where guests can try the breakfast burrito, breakfast sandwich, Puerto Rican hash or a breakfast quesadilla. The café offers Cuban coffee and other options.
During the Christmas season Christine usually makes a pastele, which she described as a Puerto Rican tamale that is a huge process and a lot of work but a guest favorite. This holiday season they are offering people their restaurant to rent out for holiday parties.
Family is a big deal to them and it can be seen on the walls and felt when you talk to Christine or Ashley.
“It has worked out really well,” stated Ashley about the mom and daughter team and business venture. “With our combined experience it has helped us do really well. We make things by hand and everything is homemade from scratch. We are about family. We do get a lot of people that pass through going to Yosemite and really people stop in here from all over. The people that have come in here are so nice and so impressed with the food. That is what makes it worth it.”
1317 Historical Plaza Way Manteca, CA 95336