Eva Sigsworth’s eyes smile as she serves up one of her customers’ favorite dishes — beef and cheese enchiladas — at Mamacita’s Café.

The name of the café reflects her late husband’s inability to pronounce her mother’s name, Juanita, so he just called her Mamacita, which translates to little mother. Juanita is still living at 94, but Eva has long since taken over the café since her mother opened it on Sixth Avenue North in 1976. Eva is now 77 and putting in six-day weeks at her café, which is now at 304 N. 19th St. Mexican restautant Billings MT

Mamacita’s recently purchased a beer and wine license and plans are to expand summer hours to stay open until 8 p.m. It is currently open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sigsworth can now laugh at her early years in Montana when the family moved from their home in Eagle Pass, Texas, to Hysham when she was 10. But there were times when she felt like an outcast in the tiny farming community, speaking only Spanish.

“It was so scary,” Sigsworth said. “I was more used to Mexican people. When they put me in school, it was all white people and I couldn’t understand their language. I could tell the other kids were making fun of me, pointing at me.”

But Sigsworth and her family endured the awkwardness of those early years and eventually more Hispanics moved to Hysham. Sigsworth became lifelong friends with many of the kids she met at school.

Sigsworth’s mother used to pack burritos in her daughter’s lunch and many of the other students had never seen a burrito before. Now, they laugh with Sigsworth when they come to Mamacita’s and order burritos and beans.

Faithful customers followed Sigsworth over to the new café when she reopened it in 2010. She tried retiring in 2009, selling her former restaurant. But retirement didn’t agree with her. She still enjoys the social aspect of running a café and when a new customer comes in, she always makes them welcome.

Earlier in the week, someone new to Mamacita’s said he was so impressed with the food that he planned to bring his whole work crew back later in the week. He had one request of Sigsworth — to make tacos de lengua. So she sent her kitchen helper out to buy beef tongue.

“You bake the tongue until it just falls apart,” Sigsworth said. “Then you slice it up real thin and serve it with cilantro and salsa.”

Sigsworth said her favorite dish is chorizo, a Mexican sausage typically eaten for breakfast. Her three grown sons — Hector, Victor and Arthur Alvarado — all prefer beans and salsa. On holidays, even if Sigsworth is cooking a traditional turkey dinner, they want their beans and hot sauce, she said.

“Since we came from Texas, that’s the style of food we make,” Sigsworth said. “It’s different than the Mexican food in New Mexico, California or Arizona. People who come here from Puerto Rico have an entirely different style of cooking.”

Garlic and cumin are her two favorite spices and she puts onions on everything.