Three friends from California make a Mexican dream come true in New York
Chelsea There is an art to making an authentic taco, and that art is celebrated at Los Tacos No. 1. Although the shop only opened in May, they have already earned their place in Chelsea Market. Behind the award-winning Mexican creations are three young men who moved to New York and noticed a lack of the tacos they were used to back home.
When they first arrived here, Tyler Sanders, from Brawley, California and Christian Pineda, from Tijuana, Mexico, were pursuing architecture degrees. Once they saw the need for Baja-style tacos in the city, they called upon their friend, Kyle Cameron, back in Brawley.
"We weren't trying to get into the restaurant business," said Pineda, 27. "It's almost like we were forced to by being here and noticing this lack of product."
Next came a crash course in taco making. The boys traveled back to Brawley and worked with cooks there, who taught them how to marinate the meat. To further their training, they went to Tijuana for four months to learn how to make the tortillas and salsa. "I'm friends with a bunch of taqueros from growing up there," said Pineda. "They were generous enough to educate us on the whole process."
The three explained that though there are Mexicans living in New York City, many of them are from the South and use white corn for their tortillas. Their Tijuana-inspired recipe calls for yellow corn. They are also the first in New York City to cook their pork on a vertical broiler. Behind their counter at all times is a piece of pork on a rotating spit that the taqueros slice to order. In October of last year, Fox News rated their pork taco as the best in America.
Besides the now-famous pork, the other menu options are beef, chicken, and cactus. "Steak is kind of the go-to," said Sanders, 30. "Chicken is really popular, too," added Cameron, 25.
Along the counter, there are rice water, hibiscus, and tamarind frescas reminiscent of the West Coast. "They're the typical Mexican drinks you find in any authentic taqueria or Tex-Mex establishment out in California or Texas," Pineda said.
The sheer number of visitors to Chelsea Market has helped their business grow. "There are about 20,000 people going through every day," said Cameron. "Foodies go to Chelsea Market to see who's opening the next spot. The hard part for us was to guarantee that they were going to come back," said Sanders.
With a commitment to dishing out fresh food in a fun atmosphere, it's no surprise that they already have a steady flow of regular customers. "It's been nice to serve people on a daily basis," Pineda said. "People eat at the restaurant sometimes three or four times a week," said Sanders. "There's a group of dudes who come every night," added Cameron. Employees from the area's surrounding companies such as Google, Apple, Food Network and Major League Baseball are frequent diners and some have even asked the shop to cater their corporate parties. This summer, Los Tacos has been invited to serve at two weddings, one in Jersey City, the other in the Hamptons.
The shop went from having six employees to a staff of 21 in just a few months. The owners feel it is important to foster a familial atmosphere. And as for their families back home, Cameron said, "I'm pretty sure I'm speaking for everybody when I say they're proud of us and didn't doubt us. They knew we could do it."
Visit the website at www.lostacos1.com. Follow the restaurant on Twitter: @LosTacosNo1
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