MERRIAM, Kan. — Ana "Anita" Rodas knew she had to make a way for her family to succeed after coming to the United States from El Salvador.
"We come to another place, we don't know the language, we were facing a lot of things over here that is not easy," Rodas said. "Our lives changed completely."
She missed many things about El Salvador, like the "pan," or bread, the fruit, the music, and the pupusas.
Pupusas are a traditional signature dish. They are thick corn cakes made out of a "masa" dough, and filled with different meats and cheeses. They are served with "curtido," a tangy coleslaw and salsa.
Anita said she never made them growing up but wanted to learn.
"I started making my own pupusas when I married. The first ones were a disaster, but my husband said, 'This is really delicious!'" Rodas said.
"It's taken so long trying and trying and trying but I told my kids I always have a dream to have a restaurant," she said.
She achieved her dream, opening Anita's Cuisine in 2015. The popularity of her restaurant in Merriam, Kansas, really picked up over the years.
The restaurant won the Royals Salsa Showdown in 2016 and 2017.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City recognized Anita's Cuisine with the New Small Business of the Year Award in 2016.
Customers can't eat inside right now due to the pandemic, but the line at the window is always steady.
"We always open our arms every day," Rodas said. "We always have a smile no matter what, no matter who. Everybody's welcome."
Family is at the heart of everything she does. Her kids, Steffanie and Brian help at the restaurant. Her husband Hugo, is in the kitchen with her each day.
Anita serves her customers as she would her family. Cooking pupusas and pan relleno, along with other Latin American dishes like tamales, burritos, tacos, gorditas and chilaquiles.
"To keep my family in the restaurant is the most important thing," Rodas said. "It is a place that we stay together and do what I enjoy, and we are helping each other."
Through her restaurant, she's sharing her culture and creating community.
"It's really special feeling for us," she said.
Her message for other Latinos wanting to open a business is to never give up and remember tomorrow is always a new day.
Anita's Cuisine is open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.