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Faith and opportunity : Fajitas Place owner takes mission to heart

Salvador Carillo (right) helps chef Santiago Ludano prepare for the afternoon rush at Fajitas Place Family Mexican Restaurant in downtown Alexandria. (Abel Mehari / Echo Press) 1 / 2
Santiago Ludano, the head chef at Fajitas, has been cooking for over 20 years. (Abel Mehari / Echo Press)2 / 2

Salvador Carillo is living his dream, sharing his homemade food and family tradition with the city of Alexandria. Carillo opened his restaurant, Fajitas Place Family Mexican Restaurant, Dec. 10 at 523 Broadway.

"This restaurant has become a great place to chat and meet new people," he said.

Carillo, who worked in construction for 30 years, said he and his wife Maria had to be patient and trust in God to accomplish his dream.

"We had plans beforehand to start our own restaurant," he said. "Life was not easy, and we had to keep our faith in God so that things in our lives get better."

Before his dream became reality, tragedy struck the family. His brother died three years ago and Carillo admitted that he was struggling to overcome his loss.

"I made a lot of bad decisions and I had to reconnect with God to help me," he said.

Now Carillo is happy with where everything is in his life. He says that he leaves a Bible in the restaurant, and every morning before opening the restaurant he refers to Joshua 1:7.

"It means to be strong and very courageous," he said. "Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, that you may be successful wherever you go."

Carillo's strength and determination has had a major influence on his family. His son, Pablo Rodriguez, has learned from watching his father's journey.

"What I learned from him is to work hard and appreciate life," Rodriguez said. "I was so happy for him when he got his restaurant."

Rodriguez says he's learning math education at Minnesota State Moorhead and enjoys communicating with customers.

Santiago Ludano, the head chef at Fajitas, has been cooking for over 20 years and loves working with Carillo and the staff.

"His positive energy and appreciation have made my job enjoyable," Ludano said. "I love making food and seeing the customers happy."

Most of the menu consists of old traditional recipes that have been passed down by Carillo's mother. Carillo recalls times his parents shared food and helped the poor. He learned how to respect and communicate with people who need help.

"I was taught to always offer a helping hand to anybody," he said. "God teaches us that we must help poor people."

Abel Mehari

Abel Mehari is a news reporter for the Echo Press. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he represented the Special Olympics United States basketball team for the 2015 World Games. In 2017 he earned an ESPY award for his contributions to Special Olympics MN and for expressing his life story through basketball.

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