AUSTINTOWN, Ohio — When you eat Anna’s cooking, you might feel like you’re part of her family.
Anna Rodriguez opened her takeout restaurant, Anna’s Cookin’, six weeks ago at 4750 Mahoning Ave., Austintown, and had a growing customer base waiting for her.
The savory aroma of Puerto Rican and American comfort foods fill the cozy storefront, making guests feel like family. It’s part of Rodriguez’ vision.
“It’s not super fancy,” she says. “My concept is to make you feel like you just got a plate of food from my kitchen. It’s the same things I would feed my kids at home.
“I don’t want you to feel like you got something fancy that you can’t even pronounce and is too pretty to eat. I mean, my food is pretty but you’ll definitely want to eat it. It’s homemade food.”
The takeout restaurant is Rodriguez’ first business and fulfills a dream. She had been working in sales until she decided to change careers several years ago.
Rodriguez had cooked all of her life, learning from her mother and grandmother. She bolstered her skill set by earning a diploma in restaurant management from Le Cordon Bleu.
Rodriguez got a job at a local restaurant and learned every aspect of the business.
“I started from the ground up,” she says. “I was a server, hostess, cook and I washed dishes before I worked my way up to manager.”
After finding a site for her own place – a former pizza shop next to Little Hunan restaurant – she spent months cleaning, refinishing surfaces, painting and replacing plumbing fixtures.
There was no grand opening but word quickly spread among her friends. A stylish sign was erected in the parking lot to alert motorists on busy Mahoning Avenue.
“Everybody I’ve ever worked with and [who follows me on social media] knew I could cook and that I wanted to do this for a while,” she says. “So I got a good response.”
Rodriguez was born in the United States to Puerto Rican parents. They lived in Philadelphia, New York and Puerto Rico before settling in Sharon, Pa., a decade ago.
She and her family moved to Youngstown a year ago. Her small staff consists entirely of family and friends.
Rodriguez posts her specials, with photos, on her website, AnnasCookin.com, and her Facebook page every day. Customers can place orders by phone at 330 707 4185 or just stopping in. Delivery is available but the restaurant is not listed on Door Dash or Grub Hub.
Her specialty is honey chicken, which are chicken thighs cooked in a deep red sauce that come out tender and crispy.
Other daily items include another type of protein such as garlic sauce chicken, Spanish rice, pastelillos (a fried meat turnover), potato balls (twice-baked mashed potatoes, stuffed with seasoned meat and deep fried), fried plantains and side dishes.
Daily specials vary. Count on lasagna or meatloaf on Monday, tacos and burritos on Tuesday, kid-friendly fare (think homemade macaroni and cheese or chicken and waffles) on Wednesdays, homemade soups on Thursdays, and beef or steak dishes on Saturday.
Friday is “new dish” day, when Rodriguez tries out new recipes.
Anna’s Cookin’ is open day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 8.p.m. Saturday. It’s closed Sunday.
Pictured: Anna Rodriguez, owner of Anna’s Cookin’, prepares a meal.