By Jen Merrill
Herby’s El Mexicano’s Dedication to Traditional Mexican Cuisine
You can trust that you’ll get a genuinely Mexican meal when you visit Herby’s El Mexicano, Maria Marroquin’s establishment tucked on the top of a hill in Bressler, Pa., just past Steelton.
“We are all about teaching everyone about real Mexican food. You hear all the time, ‘This is authentic,’ but it’s not. It’s like TexMex. My recipes came from my family,” Marroquin, 65, explains. “It’s a bit sentimental to be cooking. A lot of times I remember my mom. When I was little and eating this food, it was so good. So when I give it to my customers, I know they’re going to like it.”
Her dedication to authenticity shines through in dishes like Shrimp a la Diabla, succulent, spicy shrimp served over rice.
A crisp side salad completes the meal. It’s also evident in the restaurant’s use of corn, a key ingredient of Mexican cuisine.
“We Mexicans eat a lot of corn. Corn tortillas, tamales, sopas, quesadillas,” says Marroquin. “A lot of Americans find corn tortillas to be too heavy, so I can use flour tortillas, too.”
Marroquin was born and raised in Mexico and came to the United States when she was 23.
She used to cook at a Mexican grocery store in the area. Patrons would often inquire about the delectable smells wafting from her kitchen and would pester her to open up her own establishment.
For years, Marroquin shrugged off the idea. But finally, she caved, opening her first location on South Second Street in Steelton.
She built up a solid customer base, but the original spot was tiny and offered only street parking, which was often inconvenient for customers. She began searching for a new location, eventually finding the Bressler site.
“This place used to be a local bar, and it was available. I completely redid the décor.
I wanted it to look Mexican, and it’s very simple with the arches. You come in, and you feel like you’re in part of Mexico,” she says.
Herby’s has inhabited that space for 20 years now.
Marroquin uses fresh ingredients and “farmer’s meats,” and though she recognizes the increased cost, she believes the quality level is worth it.
She experiments with different ingredients and comes up with new recipes, often featuring those creations as weekend specials.
The business owner can still, after all these years, be found in the kitchen, but she tries to spend her evenings interacting with customers at the front of the house.
Though restaurant ownership offers its fair share of headaches and pressures, Marroquin thrives.
She loves all of her customers and strives to please each and every one of them.
The long-time customers who have frequented her establishment for over 20 years stand as a testament to her dedication to providing authentic Mexican food to the greater-Harrisburg area.
“Thank you to all of my customers. They are so supportive, and you have to try to continue to make the customers happy,” says the business owner. “I just feel like everybody needs to feel really welcomed. Say ‘hi’ to them, make them feel comfortable and show that you care about them.”
Herby’s El Mexicano is open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call (717) 939-0624 to make reservations or to receive more information.