MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A community leader and restaurant owner in Muskegon believes in the power of food.

Los Amigos, located at Sherman Boulevard near US-31, first opened in 2006. It offers traditional Mexican food and Tex-Mex, with more than 250 brands of tequila behind the bar and a mural by a local artist on the wall. Some of its more popular items are its blue corn tortillas and sopes, which it often runs out of, owner and general manager Ana Olson said.

Los Amigos, located at Sherman Boulevard near US-31 in Muskegon.
Los Amigos, located at Sherman Boulevard near US-31 in Muskegon.

Olson bought the restaurant in 2015, two years after she started working there with her brother. She said she loves how food can bring people together.

“It’s a joy to see,” she said. “I’m lucky enough to see it every day here at my restaurant, how people decided to get together in this environment because they feel comfortable.”

Los Amigos caters and has a space for private parties. Olson said people have hosted rehearsal dinners, celebrations and even get togethers after a funeral at the restaurant.

Los Amigos, located at Sherman Boulevard near US-31 in Muskegon.
Inside Los Amigos, located at Sherman Boulevard near US-31 in Muskegon.

“Knowing that you will have a space that will cater to your needs and it will be comfortable and they will be here to serve you, I think that’s what it sets us apart,” she said.

The restaurant owner said she is grateful for her customers, saying they “keep us on our toes.”

She’s getting ready to open a second location, La Catrina, at 1362 Whitehall Road near Giles Road in Muskegon Township. She said her and her team are working on renovations in the building and getting permits. La Catrina is the name of a symbol associated with the Day of the Dead.

“That is just a reminder in Latin culture that we are the same once we passed away. We all look the same. It doesn’t matter who you were now at the end of the day when we all die … it’s an equalizer,” Olson explained.

The restaurant’s rotating menu will incorporate dishes from other Latin American countries. Olson said it’s important to honor those cultures.

“It is more than Mexican food in Latin America. There are 21 countries and even though we speak the same language and then some of the dishes or ingredients might be the same, the way that they get prepared in different countries is so nice,” she said.

Olson hopes the Muskegon community will get to know more about Latin American culture through her restaurant.

“Knowing what the culture is about, I think it makes it more accepting and … brings us together. … I always think food is going to bring us together. And tequila even more,” Olson said with a laugh.

Olson is hoping to have La Catrina opened by the end of the year. She said the process is exciting and intimidating as she works to build a strong team like the one she has at Los Amigos.

“It is exciting nonetheless. It can be scary, but we are going to conquer it,” she said.

Ana Olson at her restaurant, Los Amigos, in Muskegon.
Ana Olson at her restaurant, Los Amigos, in Muskegon.

Outside of her restaurant, Olson is heavily involved in the community and helped found the Muskegon County Latino Festival.

“I am everywhere here in Muskegon,” she said. “You will see me putting my hands in a lot of projects and I just love to be part of the community and love to give back.”

She said the community of Muskegon has been so welcoming to her since she moved to Michigan in 2012, and she loves how the community looks out for each other.

It is her heritage that keeps her going.

“I’m obviously a very different heritage of what the native of West Michigan would be,” she said. “Just to share who I am in my culture — because it’s so beautiful — I think that’s what just brings me, over and over, back to keep giving to the community and keep showing who I am and who we are. I think that just is the best thing I can do.”

“I can change your mind with a taco,” she added.

News 8 is featuring Hispanic-owned West Michigan businesses this week in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Come back Wednesday to read about a business serving up “peace, love and beer,” and catch our Hispanic Heritage Month special Thursday at 7 p.m. on WOOD TV8.