Port People – Week 6: Erik Metzdorf and Chris Lee of Metzy’s Taqueria and Cantina

By Lexi Fontaine, Marketing Intern

I visited Erik Metzdorf and Chris Lee in their Rails End neighborhood restaurant, Metzy’s Taqueria and Cantina, located in Newburyport, MA. Below is the interview for the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce’s #portpeople campaign which is a weekly profile of members of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry!

Lexi: Have you always had a passion for food?

Erik: I’ve absolutely always had a passion for food! That is why I got into this business in the first place. Food is everything. The freshness, the quality – that is what we’re all about.

Chris: It’s the same for me. The reason I got into this business is also food, making people happy, and giving them a fulfilling experience that they’ll remember.

Lexi: Where did the idea to have a Mexican themed food truck/restaurant originate?

Erik: In 2013 I was looking to make a career transition.  A friend who had lived in Newburyport as a child recently moved back from California and he told me how amazing the food trucks in California were. Based on what he knew about Newburyport and what he knew about me, he thought opening a food truck would be the perfect career transition. Two months later we hosted our first event where we used local surveys to discover what people would like from a local food truck business. Overwhelmingly, it turned out that they favored a taco truck. At first I thought that owning a food truck would be a “toe in the water,” but once you dive in, you have to swim. Now it is my passion and part of my DNA.

Chris: I had a food truck as well, and have a long-standing background in restaurants as chef, manager, consultant, etc. When Erik and I met, it was a no brainer. We were doing the same thing but different sides, and the match was almost perfect.

Erik: The word “simpatico” describes our relationship perfectly. Chris is earning his way into being a partner at Metzy’s. I am so excited about this because Chris is as passionate, if not even more than I am, about this business.

Lexi: What is your favorite menu item at the moment?

Chris: Our specials are my favorite. There is a misconception that specials are the food to get rid of. This is not so as specials are our next menu item. We put up specials that are off the beaten path. They’re a little bit of fusion and more creative. That is why they’re my favorite items. The specials we create attract more people, so everyone is happy and has choices.  This helps bring our customers back more often.

Erik: Since day one I have always said the fish burrito is my favorite. There is just something about the crispiness and the texture of all the ingredients coming together. It’s what I recommend 99% of the time when asked. I also tell people we have the best food in town, so you can’t go wrong on any menu item!

Lexi: What drew you to this venue?

Erik: This building was built shortly before I moved here in 2001, and I didn’t like the unfortunate situation that it was never used. We were fortunate enough to have so many involved in backing our vision including 409 people backing our Kickstarter project to help us create the opportunity to build a restaurant in the NBPT Train Station. The rest is history. We are really hitting our stride. We just worked with other local business owners to rebrand the area around us that is otherwise known as the “Smart Growth District”, where we are the epicenter. This is a welcoming entrance to Newburyport, to the Rail Trail, to Rails End, and connection to downtown.

Lexi: What is the project “Rails End”, and how is it going to impact the community?

Erik: We didn’t like that this area was simply known as the edge of the Industrial & Business Park, so we asked ourselves how we can make this area more attractive. The goal was to create a Marketing strategy to wrap this whole concept together with our business brethren. I sent an email to about 40 businesses in the surrounding area. I wasn’t prepared for such a huge response. Everyone wanted in; they felt like they were not being fully represented. The Rail Trail is the “Necklace” of our fine city and the “Rails End” is one of the multiple “Jewels” of the city. We have plenty of restaurants, plenty of fun things to do, and plenty of parking here at “Rail’s End”.

Lexi: How has being a member of the Newburyport Community affected you?

Erik: One of the main reasons why I wanted to establish a food related business is my passion for serving people, but also my passion for community. Community is probably one of the most important things to me, and I also get that same vibe from Chris. If you look at our menu there is a quote about what makes him happy, and that is making other people happy. As we like to say “nuestra casa es su casa” (our house is your house). That is what we’re all about here. We support any organization locally that is supportive of local youth enrichment services. We expand that a bit to families too. For example, we are about to put table tents on every table for Our Neighbors Table to collect donations. We work well with local businesses, which is why the Rails End resonated so well. People know us as a business that likes to work with others.

Be on the lookout this summer for Metzy’s food truck, or visit their cantina at 5 Boston Way in Newburyport, MA.  Check out their menu at metzys.com!

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