On Long Island, there’s no shortage of restaurants — and unfortunately, most of them come and go without making much of an impact on the community. I Am Nacho Mama of Hicksville, however, is barely a month old, and has already made a tremendous impression on local Yelp reviewers and Long Island Facebook groups. How? By combining fresh ingredients, traditional recipes, a charming atmosphere, and a treat-you-like-family vibe.
That said, this family-owned restaurant is unique for another reason, too: It started out as a food truck. For the first few years of its existence, Nacho Mama’s was on wheels. You could find their black, chalkboard-style truck in towns like Garden City and East Meadow, but now they’ve settled into a cozy but modern spot in the West Village Green, right off Newbridge Road. (For those who are familiar with the area, the location was home to The Pie Shoppe until 2018.) Now, the exposed brick, natural wood accents, and mismatched tables create a welcoming place for customers to sit down and enjoy their meals indoors.
Carlos Juarez, owner and chef, says he never expected to open up a restaurant — in fact, if his friends hadn’t encouraged him, he probably wouldn’t have. “We always loved to have our friends over, and I would cook and prep,” Juarez says. “It’s that story we hear over and over again where friends say, ‘Hey, you have to let more people taste your food,’” so he did. Roughly two years ago, the Juarez family got a 1984 SWAT-style Chevy truck and started feeding the Long Island community. It started as a weekend thing, until the response from their faithful following caused them to extend their hours.
But Juarez always had a flair for cooking. He was born in Guatemala, and “being the youngest of the family,” he was “always left behind helping mom in the kitchen.” It’s that same fresh, made-with-care philosophy that inspires his dishes at the restaurant. “We did homestyle cooking in the truck, and we’re doing homestyle cooking here. We’re cooking all our meats on a wood fire. We cook slowly; we build flavors slowly, that way they’re layered instead of forced on the food.”
On the menu, you’ll find various types of nachos, tacos, empanadas, and burritos, but you’ll also find bowls, sandwiches, and unique desserts. (Their soft tortillas are made from ground corn, which is great news for those who follow a wheat-free diet.) “The thing I keep hearing from people is that they can taste the flavors individually in whatever they’re eating,” Juarez says. “They can make out all the ingredients, which is our philosophy. If I can make everything that goes in your taco, and you can enjoy every single part of it, then I’ve done my job. If I have something in there that’s sub-par, I have a weak player, and we can’t have that.”
Judging by the response from the customers, Juarez has in fact created something special. I’ve heard several people say that they just had to share the spot with their friends and family as soon as possible; some return the very next day to have the same meal they had just 24 hours ago — and no matter who walks through the door, the Juarez family greets them with smiles, genuine conversation, and an extensive understanding of the menu.
While Juarez himself is sometimes up front and sometimes prepping food from behind the glass, his wife Yvette can usually be found helping the customers; she also has an obvious eye for design, and is responsible for many of the aesthetic decisions and charming wall accents.
Juarez’s daughter (20) and son (18) are also a large part of I Am Nacho Mama — she handles the register, tables, and Instagram account, while he helps with the prepping and toppings station. The whole family’s ability to recall names, faces, and orders is truly impressive, especially considering how popular the restaurant has become in such a short period of time. “It’s such a blessing to have my wife and children here. It’s been like that forever for us; we try to include them in everything we do, and it’s just a part of who we are as a family,” says Juarez.
The restaurant is clearly a hit so far, and Juarez hinted at the possibility of another location in the future — but what happened to their trusty food truck? According to Juarez, it’s still very much so operational, but “she’s resting; she comes out in the spring.” That said, when the truck does return, the Juarez family will likely use it for truck events and perhaps even a charitable cause: “Our goal is to go to military families, and we’d like to provide them with free food. We may bring [the food truck] back to where we started, which is by the military homes.”
You can visit I Am Nacho Mama’s website, though it’s currently under construction. In the meantime, scroll through their Instagram or take a ride out to Hicksville to try their food first-hand. (To narrow down your lunch or dinner options beforehand, check out I Am Nacho Mama’s menu right here.)
I Am Nacho Mama’s Address:
7 West Village Green,
Hicksville, NY 11801
I Am Nacho Mama’s Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 11 AM to 9 PM