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Herminia and staff (Image: Karen Rose/Seattle Refined)

La Rielera spices up South Seattle with cuisine straight from Aguascalientes, Mexico

In the English language, “La Rielera” translates to the Railway Woman, referencing women who worked the rails of central Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. Today, Herminia Santos brings the bold and brave characteristics of La Rielera to her humble Seattle restaurant bearing the same name.

She describes a rielera as the perfect archetype of a woman warrior in Mexico, a symbol of action and inspiration. She tries to bring this same inspiration into La Rielera's kitchen.

"I see every woman as a rielera because we are all fighters and have to struggle in our daily lives to reach our dreams," said Santos. “I come from a small town in central Mexico called Aguascalientes. I came to the United States 30 years ago and opened the restaurant eight years ago. It's been a great experience because I love cooking and serving my customers real and authentic food from Mexico.”

Aguascalientes means “hot waters” and refers to the many hot springs in the area where Santos grew up with her grandmother. The culinary culture of the region reflects a fusion of recipes brought to the area by outsiders and enhanced with local ingredients and flavors. The cuisine is diverse and steeped in a rich cultural heritage.

“I grew up with my grandma, who was always cooking and feeding me,” said Santos. “She never measured anything. When it was time to cook, she would call to me, and say something like, ‘Herminia, put this in the blender. Add two tomatoes and an onion.’ That's how I learned, and she was really proud of her food. This is the type of food we serve here at La Rielera, I have customers tell me things like, "I love your beef soup because it reminds me of my home, and reminds me of my mom.’ It feels amazing and that is the reason I keep doing this.”

Santos continues the rich culinary tradition of her grandmother and Aguascalientes by serving up delicious and filling dishes made with pride, love, and plenty of spice.

A stand-out menu suggestion is the Pollo La Rielera, a mouthwatering feast of a whole grilled chicken served with sides and fresh handmade tortillas. Two other recommended dishes are the Sopes and the Asada Fries. Sopes are deep fried, thick tortillas with beans, cheese, pico de gallo and sour cream made with your choice of meat. The Asada Fries are a must for hungry diners and boast a mountain of fries smothered with mozzarella cheese and carne asada. They are delicious, satisfying, and very filling!

Santos sees cooking as an art form - basic ingredients are combined and transformed into something creative, tasty, and beautiful.

“Everything we make here is made from scratch,” said Santos. “The salsas are original, the Gorditas are original, everything is authentic and delicious.”

“The restaurant has been an amazing journey,” she continues. “I’m grateful for this opportunity because I love to cook for people. There are plenty of people that either don’t have the time to cook, or just don’t know how. At La Rielera, we are here for them and welcome them. I encourage those who want to experience genuine and regional Mexican food to come give us a try. If you want authentic, this is the place to eat.”

La Rielera is located at 11850 Des Moines Memorial Drive in Seattle.

Disclaimer: While some products, services and/or accommodations in this post were provided without charge, all of the opinions within are those of the author and the Seattle Refined editorial board. Want to support more small businesses like La Rielera? We're proud to collaborate with Intentionalist, an online guide that makes it easier for you to find/connect with diverse local businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities.