Where I work: Elotitos

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When people hear that I run a corn bar, many think it’s something that’s been passed down in my family for generations. But I didn’t grow up loving corn. I grew up watching my immigrant parents work tirelessly to provide for our family. I also saw how everything changed when my father was able to start his own business.

He went from always being unavailable because he had to work to being able to take days off to spend with our family and plan family vacations. When he was working for someone else, he didn’t have that flexibility because someone else was running the show. From him, I learned not to be a conformist and to strive to be my own boss.

I worked in the restaurant business for several years, first as a waiter, then bartender, then manager for the Barrios family restaurants. More than the culinary and management skills I learned, the attention to customer service is what really stood out to me. I knew that providing customers with an experience that makes them want to come back is the key to customer loyalty. So when I decided to go alone, it was in my head.

I’ve always wanted to open a cafe because I’m the kind of person who can spend hours in a cafe. But espresso machines are expensive and I just couldn’t afford them. Still, I was really stuck on the idea of ​​creating a café atmosphere, where people feel comfortable for a while. The idea for a corn bar came to me during quarantine.

Elotitos Corn Bar owner Jesus Arreaga cooks up an elite chipotle cut on Saturday. Credit: Nick Wagner/San Antonio Report

Elote is a street food staple in Mexico and San Antonio, but you usually get it from a stand or cart as an on-the-go snack. At Elotitos, you can choose from several dressing and topping options for your corn, pair with a refreshing agua fresca, and sit down to enjoy it in a relaxing atmosphere. We have the classics, like corn topped with Mexican cream, queso fresco and chili powder. For the more adventurous, we offer special fry toppings and creams. The Deco crema, named after our Deco District location, is the latest addition to our menu. It’s super tasty and inspired by my mom’s cooking.

We are also the first that I know of to offer a flight of corn—an idea that came to me in prayer. Similar to a beer flight at a brewery, our corn flight lets customers sample five flavors in mini cups. It’s ideal for sharing or for people who can’t decide.

For my team of three, our days are filled with trips to H‑E‑B, the San Antonio market, and trips to coffee shops to keep our energy up. Most of our suppliers don’t know we use them because we are still small. But we work with a lot of local places. We work with Roger’s Produce at the local produce terminal and local ice cream parlors for our shaved ice and gelato. Now that I’m a small business owner, I feel more obligated to support other local businesses. When a restaurant chain has a slow day, it always makes so much money. But when we have a slow day, we really feel it.

Mondays are the heaviest as we prepare for the rest of the week. We have to peel and cut our corn, as well as prepare our aguas frescas, mix all our creams and grate all our queso fresco. It’s a long process to grate 10-15 pounds of queso fresco.

A chipotle elite cut at Elotitos Corn Bar on Saturday.
A chipotle elite cut at Elotitos Corn Bar on Saturday. Credit: Nick Wagner/San Antonio Report

Although it is really hard work, I enjoy spending time with my mother every day. She comes every day at 4pm to help around the back of the house and absolutely kills her every time. As I get older, I realize how important it is to spend time with my parents. We missed a lot of time together when I was young, so I want to make the most of our time together now.

I also enjoy serving the city of San Antonio. You might think that only a certain demographic of people would walk through my doors, but San Antonio is so diverse and we get all types of customers from different backgrounds who love elot.

I hope to continue to offer unique menu items in an inviting atmosphere and eventually expand to multiple stores across the city, as well as snacks. Our name is Elotitos Mexican Snacks and Elotitos Corn Bar is only part of it.

Elotitos is located at 1933 Fredericksburg Rd. in the Deco district.

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