Maria Vargas had barely made it to grade school when her father bought La Taza de Oro, a Puerto Rican diner that had moved from the Upper West Side to Chelsea during the 1960s. A magnet for Puerto Rican immigrants from the coastal town of Cabo Rojo, the diner embraced a diverse range of customers in Chelsea and thrived on a spirit of solidarity with the neighborhood.
Over half a century after it opened, La Taza de Oro is still bustling thanks to Maria Vargas, her late parents, her husband and a loyal staff that tends to massive, simmering pots of Spanish rice and carne guisada for hours on end. These elements, however, would be long since gone if Vargas didn’t also own the building.
In this episode of 1 Minute Meal, Maria Vargas reflects on why she has chosen to stay at the diner and run it the way that her parents did in a neighborhood that they would hardly recognize nowadays.