TOPEKA (KSNT)- It’s always hard to see your favorite restaurant close, especially when it’s locally owned. But what if the things they made are actually still around? That’s the case for a popular Topeka family-owned restaurant.
Bright and early in the morning, Tom Herrera and his family are in the kitchen of La Siesta cooking up a couple of family recipes of sauces.
“These sauces are 56 years old recipes,” Tom Herrera said.
La Siesta has been in Topeka’s Oakland neighborhood for years, it’s actually been a family-owned business for decades.
“The restaurant started in the 1950s, 60s with my Aunt Lola,” Herrera said. “Then my mom bought the restaurant in 1977.”
Herrera has a lot of memories of the restaurant, from when his mom and dad were in this same kitchen cooking for customers, to having parties. Even some of the original equipment is still there decades later.
“This room is really special to us. It really is,” he said.
However, things don’t last forever. La Siesta closed a couple of years ago and is no longer serving food. Many KSNT viewers pointed out to us in 2020 how much they missed La Siesta when we reported on where the Kansas tortilla brand Mama Lupe’s was founded. On Facebook, many expressed how much the food and sauce the family was making was deeply missed. However, this was something Herrera and his mom took note of a couple of years prior.
“We knew the restaurant was going to close,” Herrera said. “My mom was selling it [sauce] while the restaurant was open. So we thought we better get it into the stores.”
Herrera is talking about the chili con queso sauce they cook up in the morning before jarring and labeling them to sell to local grocery stores.
“That’s what the unique thing is about this,” he said. “We make everything by hand.”
What’s different now than when the sauce was being sold in the restaurant is the name. Herrera said they couldn’t keep the La Siesta name, instead, they go by Casa Del Sabor. Within years of hitting grocery stores, the brand has expanded selling more than chili con queso. They’ve added salsa verde, taco sauce, enchilada sauce, still all family recipes. The products are sold in stores like Apple Market, Herman’s, Pizza Parlor and HyVee, on shelves in stores from Alma to Topeka to Kansas City.
“It’s important to my dad,” he said. “It was very important to my mom, the sauces were…she really loved it and she was very happy.”
Herrea’s mom, Connie, passed away in 2018. His dad, Frank, is still pretty active when it comes to Casa Del Sabor. To keep his mind and fingers busy, he’s now turned to more of the manufacturing side of the business.
“My dad is 89 and he puts the labels on now,” Herrera said. “He cleans the jars and puts the labels on. If you see a label a little bit crooked, it’s probably my dad. I don’t really care. He just likes to come out here and drink a pop.”