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New Turlock restaurant thriving in face of pandemic
salt and pepper
Salt & Pepper Taqueria owner Judith Avila and employee Aaron Angulo are just part of the team that makes up the staff of Turlock’s newest restaurant. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal
Name of business: Salt & Pepper Taqueria

Type of business: Mexican restaurant

Location: 2901 N. Tegner Rd. in Turlock

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Contact information: 209-427-2946

Specialty: Quesa-Birria

History of business:

When Salt & Pepper Taqueria owner Judyth Avila signed the lease for her catering company’s first brick-and-mortar location in Turlock last fall, she had no idea she would be opening a restaurant in the middle of a global pandemic.

Still, despite countless hurdles along the way, the restaurant was finally able to open its doors on November 11 and has been a hit with the community in the weeks since.

“I know it’s one more Mexican restaurant here, but I think we’re a little different,” Avila said.

The food at Salt & Pepper, like the restaurant’s name, is simple, with no additives and natural ingredients. Since the restaurant opened last month, social media and Facebook pages like Turlock To Go have been flooded with mouthwatering photos of the Salt & Pepper menu, which includes tacos, quesadillas, burritos, tortas and salads made with a variety of freshly-cooked meats.

The Quesa-Birria is a crowd favorite, offering the melted, gooey flavor of a quesadilla along with the savory meat stew known as birria. Other menu items can be ordered with birria as well, and Salt & Pepper also offers keto tacos with a cheesy shell for those who are counting their carbs.

Before the pandemic began, Avila was working on opening the new Turlock location and also opened a second restaurant in Patterson in February. They were meant to be an extension of the catering company she has operated for the last eight years, but now supplement the income she has lost as events are cancelled due to COVID-19.

After signing the lease for the Turlock location in November 2019, there was more construction to be done on the kitchen which continued during the pandemic. Avila said she may have cancelled the project had it not been for the building owner granting her free rent during the brunt of the first shutdown.

Now that Salt & Pepper is open in Turlock, the restaurant was able to offer a few weeks of in-person dining before the latest stay-at-home order forced them to offer takeout, curbside pickup and delivery only.

Despite the setbacks, Avila encourages others hoping to open their own restaurant to do so even though it may seem scary during these ever-changing times.

“Just work every day and do your best, even if you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Avila said. “It’s different times now, but I’m really enjoying doing this. I don't see it as a job or money, because of course I need money, but I love the people and the people seem to like what I do.”