OC restaurant selling to-go tamales to stay afloat during pandemic

ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- The coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate many locally-owned restaurants. Some have already closed their doors for good, while others are desperately fighting to survive.

One restaurant is getting creative in order to stay open.

For 28 years, the Learakos family has owned and operated Katella Grill in Orange County. They, like many restaurants, are struggling.

"It's been a week of personal losses, in terms of financial losses and human loss...Knowing the right thing to do is a little more difficult," said Mike Learakos in a candid message on Facebook. The post has been viewed over 30,000 times

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Tamales, the traditional holiday staple, is bringing SoCal families together even while COVID-19 keeps them physically apart.

While some neighboring Orange County restaurants have defied state health orders by continuing in-person dining, Katella Grill decided they won't do that.

To remain open beyond COVID-19, they've gotten creative, making to-go tamales for the holidays and selling them by the dozen.

"People started calling, went online and placed orders and now we are working and our crew is coming back to work cranking out tamales which is wonderful. It's what we always wanted, the opportunity to just be able to work," Learakos said.

"I was grateful actually to know they're doing this and to know I have a way to help support them," said Sheila Teevans. She and other customers like Bob Dischner are among those supporting Katella Grill.

"I got 12 pork tamales and I'm going to eat most of them myself," Dischner said.

At this rate, Katella Grill is selling out of tamales each day.

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When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Magaly's made some changes to give the community more access to produce.

"These small businesses are the ones who really support our communities, and so I think people are really looking for how we can give back to them." Teevans said

"Before the holidays we were going to have to shut down, it's the road we were headed," Learakos said.

In these uncertain times, Learakos is thanking these loyal customers and the power of social media for spreading the word.

"Literally we were all in tears just thinking of the overwhelming support we've gotten from everybody," Learakos said.
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