Owners of acclaimed New Hampshire taquerias open new location in Wells

By Ann Charlton, York County Coast Star
Posted July 16, 2014, at 7:17 p.m.

WELLS, Maine — A new restaurant has opened its doors in Wells. Las Olas Taqueria offers delicious and healthy food that is also family — and pocket — friendly.

Las Olas, which means “the waves” in Spanish, provides a unique dining experience by allowing customers to create their own meals. Vegetarians, vegans, those who are gluten-free, and carnivores will all find plenty of options to chose from.

Their sauces, salsas and guacamole are prepared fresh daily. Las Olas has a Mexican or Latin flare, with menu options including tostadas, tacos, burritos, and their signature dish, quesadillas.

Las Olas is the creation of owners Matt and Julie Burke. The Wells location is their third restaurant to open and the first in Maine. The Burkes opened the first Las Olas in 2008 in Exeter, New Hampshire.

It took six months to build and prepare the interior of the Exeter restaurant. Unsure of how many customers they would have, the Burkes had left a portion of the restaurant unfinished for future expansion. Within a month they found that they needed the additional space.

A key part of the Burkes’ success is their philosophy on how to run their business. Matt Burke said that many of their employees tell him how much they enjoy coming to work.

“It’s really important that your staff’s experience is the same as the customer’s,” Burke said.

The Burkes have hired local help and have temporarily brought staff from their other locations — in Exeter and Hampton, New Hampshire — to train the Wells employees and ensure they understand the vibe at Las Olas.

Julie Burke said her husband is a goofball. Matt Burke said he believes in positive energy in the workplace.

“We’re all digging a ditch,” he said. “We can have a good time digging it.”

The Burkes encourage customers to fill out forms for the suggestion box, which is in the shape of a frog painted with vibrant colors. The majority of customers at the Burkes’ other locations are local repeat customers, they said.

Las Olas gives back to the communities by supporting local sports teams and donating gift cards to charities. They also enjoy having classes from local schools come to the restaurant to use it as a teaching tool.

The restaurant has seating available for small groups, as well as a separate section that a large group could use. The interior of Las Olas has several paintings of waves by local artists, including an entire wall painted by graffiti artist Brian Clark. Anyone interested in submitting wave-themed art entries may email lasolasartwork@gmail.com.

Las Olas was recently voted New Hampshire Magazine’s best taqueria for the fourth year in a row.

The Burkes said they have very loyal customers. In just their third day of being open in Wells, they already had repeat customers.

“We know we need to stay true to who we are,” Matt Burke said.

Matt himself is gluten-free and Julie is vegan. One of Julie’s contributions to the business was making sure the beans and rice are 100 percent vegetarian. Their healthy and homemade food includes locally raised meat.

“This is our food, it is where we would chose to eat,” she said.

Las Olas is located on Route 1 at the Wells Corner Shopping Plaza. In addition to dining at the restaurant, customers may order takeout or speak to a manager about catering an event.

The Las Olas Taqueria’s Twitter handle is @LasOlasTacos. Visit their website at www.lasolastaqueria.com and find them on Facebook.

http://bangordailynews.com/2014/07/16/news/portland/acclaimed-new-hampshire-taquerias-open-new-location-in-wells/ printed on December 26, 2014