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At Home in Woodland

©South County News/The Daily News

The Woodland Chamber of Commerce after-hours event was held at Los Pepes Thursday night, September 19, hosted by owners Tadeo and Maria Avelar. Chef Victor Fabian grilled oysters on the barbecue while guests helped themselves to a buffet of some of the restaurant’s favorites. Tadeo and Maria, born in Mexico and now US citizens, think of Woodland as more than just a restaurant location; they think of it as home.

 About a year and a half after the May, 2002 opening of Los Pepes, the Avelar family bought a home in Woodland and moved here from Longview. And just a few months ago, they purchased their restaurant building at 611 Goerig St., across from Horseshoe Lake Park.

“With 4 children”, said Tadeo Avelar, “it’s important to live near our restaurant where we can attend our kids’ school and sports activities.” Daughters Karina and Camila both participate in Woodland cheerleading, and the Avelar family recently held a fundraiser to help benefit the cheerleading squad.

My husband and I visited Tadeo’s and Maria’s childhood homes in Mexico with them a few years ago when their fourth child, Camila, was christened. Tadeo picked us up at the Guadalajara airport and after a few days in Guadalajara, he drove us to Leon, Mexico where Maria and the children were visiting her parents.

In Guadalajara, we stayed with Tadeo’s Tia (Aunt) Michaela, his mother’s sister. Michaela speaks only Spanish, but her patience with us and our limited Spanish allowed us to communicate. Her house was charming. We first entered a formal living room. Next, there was an open courtyard, a pleasant place to start the day. Two birds in cages sang to us while we ate breakfast. Several times a day, while Michaela swept the leaves that fell from the lime tree in the courtyard, she talked to her birds. We couldn’t understand the words, but could understand the loving tones.

Near Michaela’s house, the neighborhoods came alive every night from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM when portable taco stands suddenly appeared along the streets, creating a festive atmosphere. At home, we are used to eating dinner around 6:00, so we were plenty hungry by 10:00.The tacos, seasoned scoops of pork, chicken, or beef rolled into warm, fresh tortillas, hit the spot. Our hunger, combined with the spicy aroma of the street-side tacos, caused us to eat too much every night, and we moaned as we lay in bed with full stomachs, vowing never to eat so late again. You guessed it: the next night, we lined up again at one of the taco stands at 10:00.

Tadeo showed us his father Antonio’s home in Tapatitlan, a rancho where he raises sheep.

After a five-hour drive to Leon, we met Maria’s family and attended the christening and party for baby
Camila. The party following Camilla’s christening was a huge family affair, not unlike the gatherings Tadeo and his relatives enjoy here, with their favorite foods and music. The Avelars close their restaurant for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day to celebrate with family.

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