When patrons walk into the Don Quijote restaurant en Manchester, they hear, smell, and eventually taste a little bit of the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, and perhaps home – and that’s exactly what owner Sandra Almonte wants them to experience.
“I wanted to recreate the authentic Caribbean feeling of a vibrant atmosphere, friends, and family, and delicious homemade food from abuela’s kitchen”, writes Almonte on her restaurant’s website.
Don Quijote’s menu includes favorites from Almonte’s native D.R. like mofongo de camarones, mondongo, and tostones as well as other neighboring country staples like pernil, pollo asado, and pescado al coco.
Almonte was recently featured in NHPR’s Los Sabores de Nuestros Vecinos series where she shared how the restaurant’s cooking started to pivot throughout the years to reflect the growing diversity of Hispanics-Latinos moving to New Hampshire.
“They told us ‘Oh Sandrita, the food is very tasty, but if you took it easy on the garlic and oregano'”, she told Daniela Allee in Spanish about feedback from Honduran customers who had been immigrating to the Granite State in the early 2000s. Listening to customers helped her modify the menu to satisfy a variety of Hispanic-Latino palates.
A leader in the community, Almonte is a supporter of the Fresh Start Farms program providing plots of land for refugee farmers to grow fresh produce to sell at farmers’ markets.
“Most of us that immigrate to the US are raised having fresh and organic fruits and vegetables right in our backyard. Having the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS) right here is just outstanding,” she told Ink Link.
Neighborworks Southern New Hampshire and ORIS transform long-empty buildings into production hubs for Fresh Start Farms.
Many small businesses, especially those owned by people of color struggled to stay afloat during the coronavirus shutdown and social distance recommendations.
Almonte joined a group of Black, Hispanic-Latino, and immigrant business owners and community advocates last year in calling on Governor Chris Sununu to direct more COVID-19 relief money to marginalized communities.
In a letter, the group asked officials to direct $5 million of the state’s COVID recovery funds to businesses, health services, and other recovery efforts in Black, Brown, and immigrant communities.
Almonte is also outspoken about her political views. In an interview with Pavement Pieces during 2020’s primary, she shared that while under President Trump her business flourished she did not agree with his stance on issues such as immigration and hoped he would be voted out.
Almonte arrived in the U.S. from Quisqueya la Bella in 1998 and has owned the Don Quijote restuarant for twenty years.
The recipe for success she says is helping others. “I have always liked helping others, and I always say that if one Latino does well, we all shine”, said Almonte.
Cover photo credit: Bessie Liu
Sazón de New Hampshire features Hispanic-Latino cuisine, eateries in the Granite State. If you would like your restaurant, personal story considered for a future Sazón segment…email us at Info@LatinoNewsNetwork.com