New tortilleria in Wichita
Wichita is lucky in that it has several local businesses making fresh tortillas that home cooks can pick up fresh and warm and serve at home.
This weekend, Wichita will get even luckier.
A new business called Pinole Blue will open on Saturday, and it will specialize in something that’s rare, even in Wichita: blue corn tortillas made from blue corn freshly ground on site. The grand opening will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday at its new storefront at 242 N. Cleveland, about a block north of The Workroom. The party will feature free tacos from Los Compadres made on the blue tortillas plus tamales for sale, dancers and coffee samples from Pinole Blue’s sister business, a coffee roaster called Cafe Indigo.
Pinole Blue, which also features several other corn-centric food products, was started by Eddie Sandoval, a young entrepreneur that started his business last year with $10,000 in prize money he earned winning the Shocker New Venture Competition, which is put on each year by WSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship.
Sandoval partnered with friend Kyle Offutt to open the business, which is focused on pinole, a product made with roasted ground corn using a process that has been passed down from the Aztecs. Sandoval learned all about pinole as a child when he would travel back to Chihuahua, Mexico, to visit relatives, and his family would always bring it home to enjoy through the year.
He started out selling powdered pinole mixes that can be turned into hot drinks or smoothies. He even has a pumpkin spice flavor that, when mixed with milk, has a texture and taste comparable to a chai latte. The drink mixes, Sandoval says, are good pre-workout options, and pinole is one of the main fuels used by The Tarahumara, an isolated tribe living in the Copper Canyon Region of Mexico whose members are known for endurance running while wearing sandals.
Sandoval and Offutt have been selling those products online and at few local stores like Green Acres, and he supplies stone ground blue tortillas to several stores and restaurants, including Los Compadres, Kind Cravings, Wichita Country Club, Green Acres and more. (It’s rare, Sandoval said, for anyone to sell tortillas made from fresh stone ground corn. Most start with a mix.)
The store is in a small strip center that looks like a collection of offices from the outside. Inside, though, Sandoval and Offutt have a fancy tortilla making machine that can turn out 2,500 tortillas in an hour. They’ll have retail space in the front, where they’ll sell the pinole mixes and tortillas, and they’ll be selling white corn tortillas as well as blue. People will be able to buy them fresh and hot or in a vacuum-sealed, refrigerated package. The partners also are working on getting more restaurants and grocery stores to sign on as wholesale customers.
There’s also a room in the new store devoted to their friend Pierre Oltean’s burgeoning business, called Cafe Indigo. It’s a specialty coffee company Oltean started and has built by purchasing beans directly from farmers in places like Panama and Colombia. He recently was able to buy his own roaster and now is doing his production in the same building as Pinole Blue.
His coffee will be sold bagged by the pound in the retail part of the business as well. At the moment, Oltean has a light roast and a medium roast but plans to add more varieties next year.
Pinole Blue and Cafe Indigo will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.
Pinole Blue grand opening party
When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: At the new storefront, 242 N. Cleveland
What: This new tortilleria, which specializes in blue corn tortillas, will celebrate its grand opening by giving out free tacos made on its tortillas by Los Compadres. It’ll also have coffee samples from Cafe Indigo, tamales for sale, and dancers.