Taqueria Corona

Taqueria Corona

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.

Angela Hernandez

Writer/Escritora

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Publisher's Note

Mixing Traditions

It is no cliché. New Orleans has a wonderful mix of traditions that add to the charm of this amazing city. With the holidays in full-swing, we can enjoy holiday-centered, free events like simple walks around traditional neighborhoods to see the elaborate Christmas decorations, Caroling in Jackson Square, attending the gospel and jazz concerts at St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church, watching the technological light display during Luna Fête, and visiting the beautifully decorated hotel lobbies in town, among others.

 There is one tradition in Louisiana that is so unique and that I hope to experience this year: The Bonfires on the Levee. Just thinking about seeing the pyres, the fireworks display and its reflection on the river during a cold night and having a warm drink while learning about this tradition from our River Parishes' neighbors sounds like an amazing way to soak in some of the culture around us.

Though the original purpose of the bonfires is unconfirmed, fitting the storyline of Papa Noel following the lights on a pirogue being pulled down river by alligators to deliver presents is such a tale. It involves a mix of many elements that are unique to the culture that has shaped the city of New Orleans.

I just love being able to experience different traditions and learning about the ways diverse groups of people who have made New Orleans their home, celebrate the holidays

Happy Holidays!