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Delicious food, popular demand has helped Arod’s Tex Mex & American Grill grow, thrive


When the pandemic hit, just like many food service workers across the country, Amado Rodriguez lll was out of a job.

Rodriguez attempted to get assistance through conventional channels to no avail. He and his wife tried filing for unemployment benefits and even cashed in a check from a previous job, all of which yielded no return. 

“Not even a nickel in the bank … they took everything and the bills were piling up,” he said.

Rodriguez and his family were in desperate need of a way to pay their bills, but his first inclination for the talented cook was not to open Arod’s Tex Mex & American Grill. Rather, Rodriguez began selling tamales outside on his front lawn. The notion of a restaurant was not even a thought in his mind; Rodriguez was just trying to keep himself afloat.

“I started selling tamales and making anywhere between $90 to $100 a day,” Rodriguez said, which was just enough for him to buy more ingredients for the next day.

“One time, I got a call from one of my customers and he said, ‘how’s your business going, man?’ I said, ‘What business?’ He said, ‘Well, aren’t you selling tamales?’ Oh, that. I mean I never thought about it as a business; I was just out here cooking to survive,” Rodriguez said.

And from there, “it just started spreading.”

Suddenly, revenue increased from just $150 to $400-$500 a day; Rodriguez went from 200 hundred friends on Facebook to close to 4,000.

“Everybody was tagging everybody and they were tagging me and then I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to start selling TexMex’ …[and] the response was overwhelming,” Rodriguez explained.

Word of his food was spreading like the fires of a chili pepper. He was soon approached by his friend Mark who knew about an open space that Rodriguez could use to finally open a restaurant.

Some of the delicious dishes from Arod’s Tex Mex & American Grill.

Unbeknownst to him, the man selling the space was Kevin Metcalfe, owner of Metcalfe’s Market, the sister of whom Rodriguez had been serving food and drinks to for years.

“And [Metcalfe] said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what, you don’t have to pay me nothing until you get on your feet. I want to see you get on your feet,’” Rodriguez said, paraphrasing their conversation.  

He declined Metcalfe’s offer, acknowledging that he was just not ready to open up an actual restaurant. Although he did not end up moving into the space that Metcalfe offered, he would later start at a space on Zeier Road near East Towne Mall where people could come get his tamales, birria tacos, birria quesadillas, pork belly tacos, enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas and much more. Rodriguez expressed his thanks to all those who have helped these past few months. 

“Never in a million years did I think I would start cooking and making money cooking,” Rodriguez said. “…And the thing is, it was just one door after another opening up for me.”

But it hasn’t always been this way, doors opening up for Rodriguez left and right. According to him, “we’ve been poor all our lives.”

A-Rod’s Tex-Mex American Grill

“When I was 7 or 8, I was picking strawberries,” Rodriguez said. “It hurt my back, it sure my knees. I was on my knees out on the dirt picking strawberries. I remembered if I picked this amount [of strawberries], making $3 a day, at the end of the week I would have a $15-20 paycheck. I could buy my mom something and give the rest of the money for food. That’s the way it’s been all my life. I’ve worked hard. For the past 14 years, it has been 16-17 hours, 7 days a week. I don’t really know anything much more than work hard and it pays off.

“My mom told me, ‘Son, I’m so proud. I just wish your dad was here, because he always wanted something like this.’ I keep thinking about him. He’d be right here helping me,” he continued. “We come from being migrant workers. We come from a lot of hard-working people, people that struggle.”

Now, Rodriguez has multiple staff members, a location in East Town Plaza which marked its two-month anniversary last month, and is making much, much more than just tamales.

“It’s crazy and I’m still in awe,” he says. “I’m in awe that they like [my food].”


Arod’s Tex Mex & American Grill is located on 2161 Zeier Rd Unit 4, on Madison’s east side. It is open every day from 11 am-8 pm except on Sundays when it is open 1-6 pm.