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Mexican restaurant a haven for fans during the Olympics

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LONDON – “Mexico! Go, Mexico!”

Earth-shattering cheers echoed across the street and throughout Mestizo Restaurant and Tequila Bar earlier this week as Mexican soccer fans pounded on the tables and clapped for their favorite players while chowing down on tacos and quesadillas.

The crowd groaned when Mexico missed a goal but erupted in cheers when the men’s team scored and later beat Japan, securing its place in the Saturday’s gold medal game.

Families populating tables on both levels of the two-story restaurant joined in singing the Mexican national anthem.

“Every time there’s a game like the World Cup or the Olympics, we don’t have tickets but people want to come to a place with Mexican culture,” co-owner Roberto Alvarado said.

Freshly cooked fare from a taco bar set up especially for the soccer match gave regulars and visitors alike a chance to experience authentic Mexican cuisine.

“Younger and older Mexicans come for their taco fix,” Brian Dunn of Mestizo said.

Daniel Rosas is a journalist and Mexican native reporting on the Olympics who ventured into Mestizo, craving food from his homeland.

“It tastes really good. It’s the same taste!” Rosas said.

But it’s not just about the food. Mestizo is a community.

“When I first moved here it was difficult to adapt to the culture, but after coming to Mestizo you feel closer to your culture and your people,” customer Michelle Oueilhe said.

Bringing the Mexican community closer together was exactly what Marysol and Roberto Alvarado hoped for they opened the restaurant in 2005.

“We took the risk of opening an authentic Mexican restaurant instead of a TexMex, and we have found that Europeans who travel to Mexico know our cuisine,” Roberto said.

Dunn said Marysol wanted to get away from the party atmosphere and create a family feel. “A lot of people think of Mexican cuisine as just street food, tacos and parties,” he said.

The Alvarados serve fresh and original Mexican dishes, using old family recipes to give those unfamiliar with Mexico cuisine an experience they will never forget.

“People cook at home, but when you want to show your friends authentic Mexican food you come to Mestizo,” Alvarado Rios said.

One of the couple’s sons works behind the bar during breaks from school, and Marysol’s sister operates the second Mestizo in Madrid.

Another enthusiastic – and hungry – crowd was expected for Saturday’s title game against Brazil.