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Señor_Sisig_Oakland Daniel Beck
Evan Kidera and Gil Payumo embarked on the journey that would lead them to Señor Sisig — Filipino flavors with Mexican elements like burritos and tacos.

How Señor Sisig is introducing the Bay Area to Filipino-Mexican foods

The fast-casual restaurant brand is led by two high school best friends, Evan Kidera and Gil Payumo

Back in 2009, when Twitter was brand new, Evan Kidera was watching the trends. A graduate of San Francisco State University with an MBA, Kidera noticed the growing trend of food trucks across his feed, and he wanted to get in on the momentum. Kidera’s father owned a restaurant, so he knew what it took to be in the industry. He bought an old Chinese food truck and started on his journey.

His next step was identifying the best cuisine for the time. He initially thought about Korean tacos, which were growing in popularity in California, but ultimately decided on Filipino cuisine because of the growing population of Filipinos in the Bay Area. He turned to his high school best friend, a culinary school graduate, named Gil Payumo. In addition to being a trained chef and Kidera’s best friend, he’s also Filipino.

The two then embarked on the journey that would lead them to Señor Sisig — Filipino flavors with Mexican elements like burritos and tacos.

The name comes from one of Payumo’s favorite family recipes using sisig which, in this case, is pork shoulder marinated for two days. Some traditional recipes use pork jowl and ears, pork belly, and chicken liver.

The idea to pair something so foreign to the average American with Mexican food may have been risky at first, but it eventually paid off for the two men.

“We felt like it was a food that went really well with what we’re doing,” said Kidera.

Before the pandemic, they had a fleet of six food trucks driving around San Francisco and one brick-and-mortar unit. Now the pair have pared the food-truck fleet down to three, and grown to three brick-and-mortar locations as well.

Kidera said the future of the brand lies in brick-and-mortar locations.

The food, the two men believe, stands out in a crowded fast-casual market not just in California but across the country.

“It was important for me, [having grown] up as a Filipino American, to bring [the cuisine] out to the masses and have people understand about not only Filipino food, but this dish [sisig],” said Payumo. “And what the concept had was easy eating food, because we loved Mexican food.”

Payumo said that this Filipino food, rather than the traditional foods, bring up vague memories of the past without customers saying, “well, this is how my parents used to make it and I like it that way only.”

By combining sisig with burritos and tacos, the chain is trying to make the experience handheld as well.

“We created this gateway for people to understand Filipino food in a different way,” Payumo said.

Kidera added, “we’re able to make it a little bit more hip, and it is coming from some younger guys.”

While the pair have growth on their mind, they want to be prepared before making the leap outside of the Bay Area, and that comes down to operational efficiencies.

Though Señor Sisig has done pop-ups outside the Bay Area — including across the country in New York City — supply chain is an issue that they are working out before expanding. For the New York City pop-up, the two could not find sisig and some other ingredients at the local stores, so they flew that in.

“That’s not sustainable,” said Kidera. “It’s a different phase in our business that we’re working on right now. And we’re learning so much.”

TAGS: Fast Casual
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