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Posted on Mon, Nov 23, 2009 : 7:38 a.m.

Open Nov 23rd! Permanent location for Pilar's Tamales

By Corinna Borden

Borden - Pilar's tamale cart

"Pretend it is my cart" is Sylvia's response to Pilar's Tamale's new permanent location.

Corinna Borden | Contributor

I met Sylvia Nolasco-Rivers of Pilar’s Catering and her family this summer at the Westside Farmers Market. Her vibrant yellow cart was a unique signal to all driving along Stadium Blvd that good food, music, and a smiling Sylvia were present to serve up El Salvadorian specialties.

I was recently able to sit down and talk to Sylvia as she and her husband Joe were preparing for Pilar’s next phase. They are stepping into a permanent location on November 23rd: 2261 W. Liberty St.

What is happening at the glowing colored space with seating for eight? Sylvia responds to my question, “I am telling people who know me to pretend this is my cart.”

Borden - Pilar's storefront

The front of 2261 W. Liberty

Corinna Borden | Contributor

6 months after Sylvia and her mother started Pilar’s Catering she started traveling with her yellow cart selling tamales, soups, beans, rice, salads, hibiscus iced tea, and more. Sylvia had grown up around food. “My grandmother had an eatery in San Salvador…the laws are different, you can serve up a little something in the house and feed the neighbors…soups, pupusas, tamales, beans and rice…that is how we were raised, that is how we grew up.”

Sylvia says with a grin, “I’m bringing a few of my friends in here. I wanted to be that for those folks. To showcase them.” Roos Roast will be providing coffee to drink and buy in bulk. As you wait for your lunch you can browse for chocolates from Maite of MaiteLaites, biscotti from Barb Gibson of The Biscotti Factory, gluten-free baked goods from Julie at Tasty Bakery, and more. When I teased her about so many familiar faces from the Farmers Market being showcased, Sylvia smiled, “it is community based.” Indeed, and more appealing and stronger because of it.

Borden - Pilar's Sylvia and Joe working

Sylvia greets curious bystanders while Joe works in the new space.

Corinna Borden | Contributor

Six weeks ago Sylvia signed the lease. She and Joe have worked tirelessly to get the space ready. The previous occupants, La Tienda Libertad, moved to a larger location 20 feet away over the summer. The combination of Pilar’s Tamales and the Latin American grocery store will effectively create a corner of chilis, plantains, and beans in Ann Arbor. I am thrilled - I love beans and rice (even though it is challenging to eat them with chopsticks).

When asked by an admirer why she was expanding into a new location given the state of the Michigan economy, Sylvia’s response was, “I refuse to be scared.” Here is a video of her vision for the space.

Her indoor cart/store/takeaway/counter service space/community food artisans showcase opens Monday, November 23rd. (I can understand why she is telling people to pretend that it is her cart, I have no idea what to call the space!) It will be open from 7 to 7. Look forward to seeing you there!

Drop me a line! Check out my website! Post a comment and start the conversation rolling!



Mon, Nov 30, 2009 : 7:24 p.m.

We just got back from Pilar's Tamales and loved our very first experience. We noticed the cart at the west side and ann arbor farmers market over the summer and wanted to taste the tamales. This is definitely going to be one of our favorite foods in town. All the best Sylvia and Joe.


Mon, Nov 23, 2009 : 8:20 p.m.

Great news! I can't wait. I'll be there on the first day.

Laura Meisler

Mon, Nov 23, 2009 : 3:36 p.m.

Fantastic! Congratulations to Sylvia and her crew.

Corinna Borden

Mon, Nov 23, 2009 : 11:20 a.m.

Wolverine3660 - yes you head west on Liberty, cross over Stadium, and it is on the left hand side before Fresh Seasons Market (about 200 feet past the intersection of Liberty and Stadium).


Mon, Nov 23, 2009 : 10:15 a.m.

How far down Liberty is her new place at? Does one have to go down liberty St, past the Liberty St. and Stadium Ave intersection?

Kitchen Chick

Mon, Nov 23, 2009 : 10:11 a.m.

Yeah! Wonderful news.


Mon, Nov 23, 2009 : 9:52 a.m.

Hooray! I have missed Pilar's since she closed her State St. place. I wish it was downtown, but it will definitely be worth the trip.