by ASHLEY MILLER
for the Sequim Gazette
Rick Dryke swears by his wife’s cooking.
Enchiladas … tostadas … It doesn’t matter what the dish. If she cooks it, he loves it — and that’s the truth.
In just a few days, Rick Dryke believes the rest of the community will come to agree.
“It’s like going to a restaurant and getting a home-cooked meal,” he said. “You can’t beat that.”
Rick Dryke and his wife, Maria, are opening Maria’s Cilantro at 126 E. Washington St. on Tuesday, May 3. The Mexican-themed restaurant will specialize in authentic home-cooked meals from scratch.
Unlike traditional restaurants, Maria’s Cilantro won’t have a regular menu. Instead, Maria, the head chef, plans to go shopping weekly and then cook meals from what’s in store. This will allow her to keep the “menu” seasonal and fresh.
Customers will be encouraged to fill out and place suggestions in a box. Each week, one card will be drawn and that suggested entrée will be available for order.
The winner will receive a complimentary dinner for two.
Two of Maria’s favorite and all-original meals to prepare are cilantro lime rice with carrots and celery and chicken breasts with a creamy chipotle sauce — one of her husband’s top choices.
“I never liked spicy food but she has trained me to,” he said. “I’ve learned that it’s not about spice, it’s about flavor.”
Maria Dryke was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico. With six brothers and two sisters, the house was never quiet. After her mother died when she was 18, Maria took over the role of homemaker.
“I didn’t know how to cook until my mom passed away,” she recalled. “Suddenly, it was up to me to continue the family legacy.”
Even though her childhood was hard and their family was poor, all of her siblings became successful professionals, Maria said proudly, and she wouldn’t change anything about the past.
“It made me become who I am today,” she said.
Rick is a Sequim native. In fact, his grandmother owned and operated Dryke’s Café downtown many years ago. Starting as a dishwasher and holding every position along the way to chef, Rick knows his way around a kitchen, though he doesn’t measure himself up to the same standard as his wife when it comes to cooking.
“She’s amazing,” he bragged. “She can make even the simplest dish of rice delicious.”
Maria grinds all of her own spices and makes her own taco seasoning. The No. 1 selling salsa at Sunny Farms — you guessed it, her recipe.
Maria first came to Sequim as an exchange student when she was just 21 years old. She stayed with the Stark family for three weeks and, interestingly enough, met Rick for the first time then. Even though the two hit it off, she didn’t speak English and wasn’t interested in settling down until she achieved more of her own personal goals.
After her stay in Sequim, Maria applied for a visa extension and moved in with a family in Tacoma where
she started taking English as a second language classes. Upon returning to Mexico, she taught English to others.
Five years later, Maria and Rick Dryke married.
“I wanted to wait and do it for love not for citizenship,” Maria said.
Now, the couple has two children — Brenton and Bryce, ages 10 and 13.
Three years ago, Maria Dryke became a naturalized citizen, the first step toward pursuing her dream of opening a restaurant.
“I love to cook, it’s inspirational — like dancing,” Maria said. “To me, it’s like I’m sharing part of my heritage with others and it makes me happy to know that people will be having a family meal together even after a hard day of work.”
Both Maria and Rick Dryke extend a heartfelt thank you to all their friends and family who’ve helped them get to where they are today, including close friends Kevin and Michelle Chase.
“Even when they don’t have the time, they still take the time to help us,” Rick said. “If we ask a favor, it’s done. If they see our children need help with something, they treat them like one of their own. You can’t ask for better friends than that.”