By: Annalisa Francesca Ciro
You’ve found ‘Miss New Foodie,’ a new column composed by Annalisa Francesca Ciro where she sheds a little light on local eateries.
VINELAND, N.J. — Tucked away along the bustling streets of center city Vineland is Milly’s Restaurant, a staple of authentic Latin American food in Cumberland County. The self-proclaimed home of “The World’s Best Guacamole,” this cozy, family-owned spot offers a unique combination of Mexican, Dominican, El Salvadorian, and Puerto Rican cuisine.
Named after the matriarch of the family, Milly’s Restaurant was inspired by Milagro Juarez’s talent for cooking.
“She cooks everything and she’s been cooking for more than thirty years,” says her son Victor with a smile.
In Spanish, the name “Milagro” translates to “miracle,” and the essence of Milly’s name likewise translates to her cooking. Milagro’s food is food for the soul. Care is taken with each dish, and every bite is infused with a certain comfort reminiscent of a warm, home-cooked meal.
Although born in El Salvador, Milagro raised her family in Mexico and eventually moved to Vineland around twenty years ago. Her background — coupled with her passion for cooking and her expertise — informs the menu at the restaurant; she pulls from a host of countries to cater to the diverse community in Cumberland county through the creation of meals typical of places in Latin America.
Mexican dishes such as tacos and tortas; Dominican mofongo, chicharron, and tostones; El Salvadorian pupusas and tamales; and Puerto Rican-style rice and stews all make an appearance on their diverse menu. And on the weekends, Milagro cooks her special mole — a traditional Mexican sweet and spicy chocolate sauce served over meat — from scratch.
“I’ve been other places, but hers is just really good,” says Victor. “It has the perfect balance of sweetness and spiciness from the chocolate and the peppers.”
But don’t just take his word for it — the restaurant’s Facebook page is home to a host of positive reviews, from praise for the food to comments about the reasonable prices and friendly staff.
“No matter what I try from Milly’s, I’m never disappointed,” says Melissa Garcia-Parra, a regular. “The waitresses are always nice, and I don’t have to break the bank to get a nice, home-cooked style meal. Honestly, though, a lot of places will charge over ten dollars for chips and guac! But it’s never enough and never as good as it is here.”
Produce for the restaurant is locally sourced, whether from local farms or small local corner stores with niche products. The family-run restaurant stresses the importance of keeping it local, which may stem from the business’s humble beginnings.
Milly’s was originally birthed as nothing more than a food delivery service for local farmers. The family cooked meals at home and used a small food truck — a truck not even big enough to cook the meals inside — to transport and sell meals to various farms in the area. The farmers took their breaks around 7 a.m. every day, so each morning the Milly’s crew would begin preparing at 3 a.m. in order to sell to the farmers during their breaks.
Eventually, Milly’s sold the trucks and upgraded to a small location that held a modest two tables only a few blocks away from where the restaurant now resides. As news spread of their tasty and affordable home-cooked meals, their clientele grew; four years later, they were able to transition to their current location, which can host about 45 people — but they won’t stop there.
The family has plans to continue expanding in the near future, with hopes of not only opening new locations, but also purchasing a food truck again — one big enough to cook inside — so they can participate in local food truck festivals.
Milly’s is a story of the dedication necessary when pursuing a dream. It’s a story of a family who uprooted their entire life and started from scratch to better their lives and the lives of those in the community they serve, despite the myriad barriers they faced. Milly’s is ultimately a representation of what makes a community special — a local business that supports local people and other local businesses. They are a team of dedicated individuals who have worked hard to build from the ground up and provide for others in their community through a commitment to their vision. Milly’s is located on 602 East Chestnut Avenue in Vineland and is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, serving breakfast and lunch all day. You can find Milly’s Restaurant on Facebook and locate their menu and number online at: https://www.millysfood.com