By Angela Hernández
Click aqui para español->Taqueria Corona
On any given night, Taqueria Corona humbly sits nestled on Magazine Street where it’s been for the past 30 years. On the inside, diners sip on margaritas and devour tacos while merengue music joyfully fills the colorful restaurant. But what most patrons don’t know is that the meal they are enjoying has made a significant mark in New Orleans restaurant culture.
In the past 30 years, the Magazine Street Taqueria Corona has seen a lot. Owner Roberto Mendez fondly remembers the days of 1988 when it was just him and a dishwasher. This was a time when making $50.00 daily was considered all in a normal day’s work. But a feature in “The Times- Picayune” four months into Taqueria Corona’s opening changed everything.
Mendez soon found himself trying to keep up with the long lines outside his restaurant. The demand was so great that he even had to shut down his taqueria once because he ran out of food. Not only were the locals eager to try his tacos, but also movie stars such as Kevin Costner and Brad Pitt have pulled up a chair to savour his food. Nowadays, Mexican restaurants are as common as Taco Bells, but that is where Mendez believes he is different.
Taqueria Corona isn’t a typical Mexican restaurant nor is it fast food. Although their menu has expanded over the years to include common Mexican dishes, tacos remain as the heart and soul of the restaurant. Mendez recalls that many restaurants weren’t serving what he calls “soft tacos”. At that time, tacos were hard shells and filled with ground beef instead of soft tortillas filled an array of juicy meats and garnished with cilantro and onion. I wasn’t until his first time attending Jazz Fest that Mendez realized authentic street-style Mexican tacos were missing.
This spurred his idea to ask Jazz Fest if they would let him open a taco stand known as a taqueria. “The word ‘taqueria’ was introduced by Taqueria Corona into the New Orleans lingo. I attribute that to spotting the trend for tacos, not Mexican restaurants but tacos,” said Mendez. This innovative idea has certainly become increasingly popular within the past couple of years as Americans search for a place to have their #TacoTuesday.
Although Jazz Fest had denied his application, Mendez decided to open a restaurant instead. Without any formal training, Mendez began to study different recipes, visited taco stands in Texas, and perfected his own recipes through trial and error. Looking back, Mendez remembers feeling unsure if his tacos would be authentic enough, but his crazy idea proved to be worth it in the end, as Taqueria Corona remains one of New Orleans’s most beloved taco joints. “Seeing the customers’ happy faces while enjoying the food always give me a sense of accomplishment,” said Mendez.