They Started in Erie
By Ginny Tonkin staff blogger
They Started in Erie celebrates those successful stars who've lived and started out in our big, little town.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-870-1915
Posted: June 23rd, 2010
For Cleveland’s Momocho owner, Erie is an escape
Eric Williams

Eric Williams, Erie native, restaurant owner

Who’s Who: Eric Williams

Why care: Celebrated owner and head chef of two of the hottest restaurants on Cleveland scene, Momocho and Happy Dog, and is just getting started making his mark on Cleveland’s palate.

Erie Link: Born in Erie, Williams and his parents moved when he was four. Aside from this Ohioan transplant and “a few Kansas City stragglers,” the majority of Williams’ family still lives in Erie.

15 Minutes of fame: Williams’ restaurant Momocho was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Momocho, named for his son in Mexican slang meaning “hellion little boy,” is much more than a diner, drive-in, or dive: Williams’ signature “mod mex” flavor adds a kick to the sleepy Midwest imitation of Mexican cuisine, converting newbies to regulars who return to Ohio City for more of his Oaxacan oasis.

Driven: A high school dropout, Williams wanted to prove to his dad he could become more than just a short-order cook. Always drawn to the kitchen and the “flavors of the sun,” Williams worked his way from grill boy to sous-chef to manager, traveling cross-country, choosing to work in restaurants pushing the envelope on creative Latin cuisine.

With his desire for independence and vision of bringing “mod Mex” to the table, opened Momocho, his first restaurant in March of 2006. Following a business plan he wrote between jobs, he transformed a locally beloved but tired bar and grill into a hot spot on restaurant row.

Why this bright star isn’t soon to fade: His love for his craft: giving people good food and a good time. “Owning a restaurant is like going out every night of the week for me,” said Williams, who loves the instant gratification of a customer’s reaction to the food or ambiance. “The return on your work in seen all the time.”

But Williams also downplays the power of personality, explaining the success of his first restaurant  is “a testament to Momocho itself.” He also co-owns Happy Dog, a corner bar whose innovative one-item menu celebrates the hot dog, but with your choice of endless topping options, including “alien” pickle relish, fried egg, and Oaxacan black chile mole.

Who says you can’t go home: Although the hustle and bustle of running two restaurants keeps Williams busy, Erie serves as his escape. He relaxes with family at his aunt’s place with ATVs and horses and plenty of space.

Favorite Erie food: Grandma’s oxtail sandwiches. Good home cooking always awaits this foodie when he returns to Erie. “My grandma really cooks every time I come home. Why go out?”

Want a taste? Visit Momocho in Cleveland’s historic Ohio City neighborhood, or head on over to Gordon Square to enjoy live music at Happy Dog with a hot dog in hand.

Have a famous friend? Let us know whom else you want us to feature from the biggest small town on They Started in Erie at

3 Responses to “For Cleveland’s Momocho owner, Erie is an escape”
  1. Rob says:

    We could use some more places like these right here in Erie.

  2. gtonkin says:

    Have any famous friends from Erie? Know someone notable? Send me suggestions for the next profile!

  3. Rob,

    You might want to stop by at Latinos Restaurant one of these days and check our food.

    Right on 1315 Parade St. please visit our website an find out what some of our clients have to say about Mexican food in Erie, PA

Leave a Reply