Less than three weeks ago, La Sirena opened as a drive-thru restaurant in the former Dairy Queen at 501 S. Excelsior Ave. Since then, business has been booming for its owners, Zachariah and Cristina Valenzuela and his sister, Lissa Salazar.
“We could never have predicted the volume,” said Zachariah, a spokesperson for the band.
The three-person operation began with a promise to provide restaurant-quality food through drive-thrus.
If the reviews speak volumes, the trio delivered on that promise. “A delightful experience everywhere,” wrote one customer. Another wanted to let others know that “the food is always fantastic”.
Critics are music to Zachariah’s ears. The three have invested their hearts and souls in this business and getting positive feedback validates what they do.
He thinks one of the main reasons for the positive reviews is the fact that everything is made from scratch. It’s all thanks to his wife, who he explained has developed, over the past 20 years, many of the unique flavors of the dishes on the menu.
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Currently on the menu are a variety of tacos and burritos and other Mexican finger foods, as well as nachos, empanadas and a wide assortment of cheesecakes.
“We call it real Mexican food,” laughed Zachariah. “We are Mexicans who cook Mexican dishes.”
Even the name, La Sirena, celebrates their Mexican heritage. Sirena, in Mexican folklore, is a mermaid who captivated her sailors with her voice. A bit superstitious perhaps, but the restaurant was named so in the hope that the mythological mermaid will help attract customers.
The Valenzuela family, originally from Billings, have lived in Butte for seven years. A four-year veteran of the United States Air Force, Zachariah graduated from Montana Tech in 2020, with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
“I fell in love with Butte and Cristina too,” Zachariah said. “We have never felt so much at home.”
Over the college years and beyond, Butte had become home to the couple, parents of a 12-year-old daughter, and the decision was made to stay in Butte.
“It swept us away,” Zachariah said of Butte. “We wanted to stay here.”
The decision apparently wasn’t too difficult, as the family enjoys camping, fishing and hunting. They are also rock enthusiasts and head for the hills when they get the chance.
The dream of serving real Mexican food began inside a food truck, which the three ran for just a few months. The food became so popular that they knew a bigger place was in their future.
Excited about the expansion, their current location has allowed them to capture a wider local audience.
Mission accomplished. These days it’s not uncommon to call at least 100 tickets a day, with many having five, six or seven orders on a ticket.
Zachariah, along with his wife and sister-in-law, hope to be able to meet the demand. Currently they are looking to hire additional help, but until then the business will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday by calling 406-565-5214.
Future plans include expanding the existing menu.
“We’re offering something completely different,” Zachariah said, “and still have a ton of tricks up our sleeves.”