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From left, Leonor Padrria, Martha Hernandez, Arnulfo Arriaga and Candy Cruz.

El Rey Burro has gained the reputation of a great Mexican restaurant both in online reviews and in a public vote, with residents selecting the restaurant as the Best in the Nisqually in its category last year.

It has earned its loyal following from a location that is the definition of a “hole in the wall.” 

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Arnulfo Arriaga flips the food in order to prepare for an order. Arriaga has been a part of El Rey Burro since it opened ten years ago.

The restaurant is located inside the Shell gas station at 608 West Yelm Avenue, with a drive-through lane providing a quick option for those who don’t want to leave their vehicles for authentic Mexican cuisine, and limited seating inside for customers.

The restaurant was opened 10 years ago by Gudelio Jimenez and Arnulfo Arriaga. The two men originally wanted to open a food truck, but they saw that the location in Yelm was available and opened up the restaurant instead.   

Martha Hernandez, was around the age of nine when her father, Arriaga, started the business. Arriaga is the head cook, Hernandez said, and he came up with most of the recipes. Jimenez, on the other hand, is in charge of running the business as a whole.

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Candy Cruz adds beans to a lunch order.

Hernandez started helping around the restaurant when she was around 15, and gradually started moving into the kitchen. 

Hernandez is currently a political science and pre-law major at American University in Washington D.C., but she comes home over the summer to help the restaurant. 

“We’re glad that we do have a lot of people that love our business,” Hernandez said. “It’s amazing, and we definitely love how connected we are to the community, because a lot of the people that we do have, they are locals from the area and they welcome us so warmly and they just know us as one of the places in the town, so it’s awesome.” 

The staff of El Rey Burro considers the customers in the area to be one of the benefits of Yelm, and they say that the people are the life of the restaurant. 

Hernandez said that they have all kinds of people come in, from police officers to little kids, who all greet the owner like an old friend. 

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Candy Cruz prepares to grab a tortilla from the grill.

The fact that she has seen the restaurant expand from a brand new establishment 10 years ago to a to a beloved local fixture is something that Hernandez finds really awesome about the business and the community. 

The staff of El Rey Burro have interacted and known each other for so long that Hernandez said they may as well be family at this point. 

She even refers to Jimenez as her uncle.

“We take care of each other all the time,” Hernandez said. “We maintain an atmosphere so close knitted, so then we can keep motivating each other to try our best.” 

As for the menu, El Rey Burro offers what one might expect to find at a Mexican food truck. 

Tacos start out at $1.25 while burritos cost 5.99. The business also offers quesadillas, sopes, mulitas, tortas, chimichangas, enchiladas, and more. 

El Rey Burro is located at 608 West Yelm Ave, Yelm. The menu can be found at elreyburromexica.com. The business telephone number is 360-960-8381.

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