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Serving In Small Spaces

April 7, 2014, 10:17 PM by Sammi Bjelland

Serving In Small Spaces

As the old saying goes, bigger isn't necessarily better. That's definitely the case for a couple of downtown restaurants.

Mama's Ladas has been in downtown Sioux Falls for more than 12 years, and things are going so well in the small space, the owners decided to buy another tiny restaurant a few blocks away.

When you drive by Mama's Ladas on West 11th Street, it's not the flashiest looking place in town. But once you step inside, the unique atmosphere is something customers are raving about.

"It's small and quaint and every time you come in here, you're greeted right away. And they're very friendly. Then the meal is quite quick and it's really good. Really, really homemade," customer Molly Bobbitt said. 

"We try to keep it family friendly, with a little bit of adult ambiance. At night time, we have candles lit, the lights are dim. We try to play music that is friendly to everybody," co-owner Jayme Mothershead said. 

Mothershead owns the popular little restaurant with her husband, Matt.

The menu is pretty simple and features chicken or beef enchiladas.

"We didn't have fryers. We just had space enough for an oven and a stove top. And so we knew doing enchiladas, we could prep them all in the morning and then be able to cook them as people came in in the oven," Mothershead said. 

Even with the small menu, customers don't seem to mind.

"We're big fans of authentic Mexican food too, and I love guacamole.  And they've got some awesome guacamole. So it's just getting different tastes and stuff like that that's maybe more authentic than you'd get maybe at a normal restaurant," Bobbitt said. 

The name for Mama's Ladas came from the fact that Mothershead uses her mom's recipe for the enchiladas.

It was another relative who inspired Matt Mothershead to recently open up a second restaurant just around the block.

"We bought it as a retirement, savings thing. And my dad talked my husband into opening up a place to sell fried chicken," Mothershead said. 

Six months ago, Mama's Phried and Phillys opened to the public.

For fans of the original Mama's, Phried and Phillys has that same tight-knit feeling.

"It's cozy, but you know the meals are so good that you finish it fast. So you get up out of here and somebody else can sit down," Phried and Phillies customer Juan Wright said. 

While they serve Philly cheese-steaks and fried chicken instead of Mexican food, the same rules apply to Phried and Phillys as to Ladas; a small menu with a focus on quality food.

"When you only do one thing day after day after day, it's the same recipe. You can be choosey on the products that you purchase to make your food. So the consistency is key in the restaurant industry.  If you have an entree one day and you start craving that entree, the next time you go back, you want to have the same thing you had the time before," Mothershead said. 

Mothershead says these small spaces do bring obstacles, such as not being able to expand the menu or host private parties. But it also has its perks.  Things like low overhead costs and a little creativity helps keep prices at both places low.

"I buy smaller amounts or I seriously price shop. I hit all the local grocery stores. I hit the farmer's market in the summer time. We try to grow our own tomatoes and our own peppers to try to alleviate some of that cost," Mothershead said. 

Mothershead says they'll continue serving in small spaces, as long as people keep coming in.

From the reviews of these customers, they won't be going away anytime soon.

Bobbitt: I mean, the cook is 10 feet away from me and I can see them prepare my food. So the atmosphere is quite nice in here.
Sammi Bjelland: And the food?
Bobbit: Amazing.

"Fantastic. You know I give them an 'A' for everything. Food, quality, hominess. It's a small place, like you said, but you feel at home," Wright said. 

"We're so supported. We have by far the best customers in this town," Mothershead said.

Both restaurants are open Monday through Saturday. Mothershead says having Sundays off together is important for their family.

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