Savoring Success

Holly Liao reflects on Burgaw Alimente’s first anniversary

Hollyliao039Sometimes a dream turns into something quite different as it comes to life. Such was the case for HOLLY LIAO, owner of the restaurant Burgaw Alimente.

“I never thought I’d be a restaurant owner, but here I am,” Liao says. “I’m a planner, and this was not planned.”

The journey involved some improvisation, but in just one year Liao has made Burgaw Alimente a go-to spot for Mexican food and more.

When a cozy brick building at 118 West Fremont Street that she had long admired became available, Liao initially planned to open a wellness shop/bakery featuring products from her Elderberry Tribe line and homemade baked goods. When a food truck owner suggested they share the space, Liao expanded her vision to include a Mexican restaurant.

Then, 10 days before the shop’s grand opening, the deal fell through, and Liao shifted into high gear. Determined that her shop would include a Mexican restaurant as advertised, she pulled together a menu with authentic, tasty recipes from friends of Mexican heritage; bought appliances; and did everything else needed to put together a restaurant in record time.

Liao’s perseverance paid off. In the past year, Burgaw Alimente has garnered a loyal customer base. In addition to health-conscious consumers who come in for Liao’s elderberry tinctures and products, diners like the eatery’s eclectic offerings, especially its Mexican food.

“We’re told by our customers that Burgaw Alimente is a hidden gem or a unicorn spot,” Liao says.

Liao attributes Burgaw Alimente’s success to a number of factors. First and foremost, the restaurant only serves foods Liao would serve to her family and friends, she says. That means everything, from the baked goods to the Mexican cuisine, is made from scratch using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Second, Liao listens to her customers. When they request certain dishes, she’s apt to add them to the menu. In addition to its original Mexican fare, the restaurant now offers a variety of vegetarian dishes and salads in a move motivated by customer feedback.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth that way in both the number of people who come in and in our catering orders,” Liao says.

Liao says the shop has benefited from Burgaw’s development too.

“This is the best time we could have opened a restaurant,” Liao says. “Now downtown Burgaw is a lot more vibrant. There are a lot more people walking the sidewalks, and we’ve gotten new customers from other businesses being there.”

Though Liao may open more seating as the restaurant attracts more customers, she has no plans to expand at this time. However, she may reconsider in five years or so if the restaurant outgrows its current location.

Meanwhile, Liao is proud of all she has accomplished and that Burgaw Alimente is part of Burgaw’s evolution.

“Burgaw is a beautiful place,” Liao says. “I’m glad to bring life to its historical downtown and to be part of its growth.”

To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to

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Categories: Taste