Michelle Alfaro, owner and executive chef of Sauced by Alfaro, wants to bring love and light to all through her fresh, scratch made foods, rooted in her Mexican/Italian history. This wasn’t the original plan for her life, however. Halfway through a doctoral program in human capital management, she felt the pull of a higher power calling her to something bigger.
To help her oldest son fund a mission trip to El Salvador, the self-taught cook started selling the salsa she first learned to make from her mother-in-law, which proved more popular than anticipated. Alfaro mustered the courage to contact Hy-Vee, who agreed to stock her product in nearly all area stores.
Salsa success sparked a drive to try her hand at cooking, and Alfaro was gaining traction catering and putting on popup events until the pandemic forced her to temporarily shutter her proverbial doors. However, the dream of having her own restaurant was still alive, so she used the time to gain restaurant experience in both front and back of house, managing a bar and restaurant, then overseeing a professional kitchen.
Based in Louisville, NE, Alfaro is astounded by the distance her patrons travel. “People have embraced us so much, so welcoming and loving, coming from Wisconsin, Tecumseh, Lincoln, Nebraska City – really all over, just to try our food.” She affectionately refers to her business as “a food truck with no wheels”, as it is situated next door to Good Times Saloon, an establishment that generously allows customers to order and receive food from Sauced at their table while enjoying a wide selection of beverages.
Alfaro’s strong work ethic and naturally hospitable nature stems from a childhood devoid of material things but rich in food and love. “My Grandma Violet was a farm girl who found joy in using simple ingredients and making them simply good.” She fondly recalls a dish her dad made when she was a child: chicken and barbecue sauce on noodles. According to Alfaro, a version of that nostalgic dish is a favorite of her regular customers. “It takes the essence of Italian food and marries it with barbecue—sweet, savory, a little heat—all from scratch.”
The clever name was born in a conversation with her husband. Alfaro, a self-professed nerd, adores puns, and many of her sauces are booze-based, thus the Sauced by Alfaro moniker. Social media accounts are rife with the punny wordplay (their most used hashtag is #getsauced) and Sunday Punday is the best time to check them out (whiskey business, anyone?).
The team trusts its taste buds when developing new recipes. “We usually say ‘what do we want to make today’, look at what have, and go from there,” shared Alfaro. Seasonal ingredients drive dishes, and the group of creative cooks enjoys stretching its creative muscles, tweaking a dish until it wows their own palates before serving to guests.
This pursuit of perfection pays off in award-winning dishes such as the Puffy Bang Bang shrimp tacos—jumbo, hand-breaded shrimp with purple slaw, green scallions, and black sesame seeds—a dish that emerged victorious in a recent local food competition.
“We try to take traditional favorites, things people are familiar with, and elevate them,” explains Alfaro. A fine example of this intention is the popular limited edition Bourbon Cranberry & Brie Burger, featuring locally butchered, fresh-ground beef. The hand-formed patties are topped with bacon, pepper jack cheese, black pepper honey aioli and fresh bourbon cranberry sauce, served on a buttery brioche bun.
Often multiple dishes are combined to create a new one, such as the surprising Bourbon Butternut Alfredo, recently highlighted on the menu. Alfaro punches up the flavor of her traditional alfredo sauce by adding sweet butternut squash puree, warming spices, Calabrian chili peppers, and ground Italian sausage. Redolent with garlic and fresh rosemary, the dish is finished with candied bourbon walnuts. Calabrian chilis are a favorite ingredient, providing just the right amount of heat to tickle the throat and tempt the palate. “A little heat and acidity do a great job of cutting through the richness of the dish.”
Sous chef Tara March hails from Wisconsin, making her the resident cheese expert. “Her grilled cheese sandwiches are golden brown and absolutely stunning,” said Alfaro. In the winter months, variations on the oozy delight are served with piping hot scratch-made soups—a cozy combination for cold days.
Alfaro is grateful to be part of the growing, tight-knit community in Louisville, taking advantage of the mutually beneficial business relationships in town. The restaurant proudly serves breads from Rotella’s Bakery and meats from local butcher The Market, but she is always striving to increase use of local ingredients where possible.
Alfaro’s faith and generous nature is evident in all she does, from collecting donations for local charities to including personal kindnesses in to-go orders. A short drive from Lincoln or Omaha, Sauced is open four days a week, ready to serve saucy dishes with a side of smiles (and napkins, lots of napkins).
More stories like this one can be found at Our Food.