Ever since he may perceive the notion — and doubtless earlier than that — Tyler Garcia was imagined to take over his dad and mom’ beloved market and restaurant, La Tejana. And, for simply as lengthy, he was being ready to execute that plan; his childhood and adolescence have been spent working within the household’s St. Ann tienda, studying the enterprise and recipes in preparation for the day he would take the mantle. He accepted his birthright, even embraced it, however there was at all times a little bit voice within him that instructed him to maintain on the lookout for the following factor.
Now, a few a long time later, Garcia has not merely discovered that subsequent factor; he has realized his calling within the type of Locoz Tacoz (7374 Manchester Highway, Maplewood; 314-202-8367), the pleasant food-truck-turned-restaurant that opened within the coronary heart of Maplewood’s bustling enterprise district in April. Anchored by his household’s conventional recipes however knowledgeable by his expertise rising up in St. Louis, Locoz Tacoz seems like rather more than a scrumptious taco spot; it is a poignant window into the experiences that knowledgeable who Garcia has change into.
Although Locoz Tacoz has solely been open in its present storefront for roughly 4 months, its roots go a lot deeper — even additional again than 2014, which is when the model launched as a meals truck. Garcia remembers the spark for his present operation being lit nicely over a decade in the past when he was nonetheless deeply concerned in La Tejana. One night, whereas out and about working errands for his dad and mom’ retailer, Garcia noticed an indication on one other restaurant’s window saying that it had simply obtained a prestigious award. He knew his dad and mom’ meals — which at that time was restricted to a taco counter contained in the grocery retailer — was excellent, and with the correct tweaks it too might be acknowledged with such accolades. He returned to the shop stuffed with an infectious power, which in the end helped push his dad and mom into increasing La Tejana’s meals choices exterior of the market and into an area of its personal.
La Tejana’s growth was a roaring success, propelling the Garcia household’s restaurant into the dialog as one of many space’s most significant locations for conventional Mexican delicacies. However Garcia was on to the following factor once more, this time a taco truck that might take the restaurant’s beloved fare to the streets and hopefully broaden its viewers. In 2012, he and his father launched the La Tejana truck and have been once more impressed with the reception. Initially, the thought was to easily do a cellular model of the restaurant’s fare, however the extra Garcia bought into it, the extra he began to place his personal spin on issues, which finally prompted him and his father to rebrand the truck as Locoz Tacoz in 2014.
The rebrand was Garcia’s stepping out, and because it gained a following, he took over the truck in order that his father may focus all of his consideration on La Tejana. Finally, its success led to a partnership with Amsterdam Tavern and its adjoining restaurant area, dubbed Tres Equis, which opened in February of 2021 and his involvement lasted for roughly one yr. At that time, Garcia realized he was able to function a storefront of his personal, and after a troublesome actual property journey and a year-long building delay, he welcomed his first friends into Locoz Tacoz’s first true standalone spot.
The second you stroll inside the previous Jimmy John’s within the coronary heart of Maplewood’s downtown enterprise district, you’ll be able to really feel that that is the shape Locoz Tacoz was at all times imagined to take — and the restaurant Garcia was meant to function. The place is positively buzzing with electrical energy; the counter service setup is usually packed, as friends line up all the way in which to a entrance door, entertained with Latin music taking part in by the restaurant’s sound system. This identical power carries by to the open kitchen, the place the employees is poised to make your order at lightning pace, ready by the money register to see what you are getting earlier than the particular person taking your order has time to fireside it. Even at its busiest, meals comes out shortly and steaming sizzling.
This identical power carries over to the meals itself. A quesadilla — usually an compulsory menu providing meant to provide dad and mom choices for choosy youngsters — is solely extraordinary, overstuffed with juicy pork al pastor and gooey white cheese. Jalapeños flecked all through add vital spice that’s mitigated by the al pastor’s pineapple. Even the tortilla itself is excellent, completely grilled in order that it develops a golden, flaky crust. If quesadillas have been black and white your complete life, that is like seeing them in vibrant colour.
Fish tacos are one other worthy providing. At Locoz Tacoz, they diverge from the standard SoCal playbook (fried fish, cabbage) in favor of blackened tilapia that delivers a heat, savory warmth. Garcia and firm gown the taco in shredded lettuce, tomatoes, queso fresco and a signature creamy sizzling sauce; the latter two type a decadent goo that coats each chew.
Burritos hit the precise spot you need them to hit: filled with juicy meat — on this explicit case, al pastor pork — chile-seasoned rice, completely cooked pinto beans, a beneficiant quantity of cheese and sufficient jalapeños to chop by the richness however not take over. Avenue tacos, too, provide precisely what you need from the shape. Dressed classically with cilantro and chopped white onions, they’re splendidly easy autos to expertise the restaurant’s scrumptious meats, such because the excellent tinga, which is a mixture of chopped rooster and chorizo that has been slow-cooked with grilled onions and chipotle to develop a mouthwatering, earthy warmth. The campechano, a mixture of grilled steak and chorizo, additionally advantages from the sausage’s fats and seasoning, enveloping the meat in a tasty chili-infused jus. The asada, or just grilled steak, is simply as lovely by itself due to its tender mouthfeel and black-peppery style.
Locoz Tacoz affords a scrumptious torta, which I ordered stuffed with the succulent tinga; the way in which its jus melded with the accompanying mayo fashioned one thing akin to a Mexican Sloppy Joe — I am nonetheless fantasizing about it. Fortunately, I used to be in a position to come out of the reverie to take a chew of the esquites I would ordered as a facet for the sandwich. In contrast to extra one-dimensional, mayonnaise-heavy variations, this avenue corn was balanced. The mayo was there — however extra as a binder to the superbly cooked kernels, whereas flavors of lime and mouth-watering Tajín took middle stage.
You style that avenue corn — or the merely dressed tacos or flawlessly cooked quesadilla — and also you perceive that, along with the colourful branding, trendy power and dancing taco mascot, there’s actual substance to Locoz Tacoz. It is the type of substance that may solely have come from somebody who is aware of his roots, blended with the forward-looking enthusiasm of somebody who desires to see how far he can develop from them. Somebody precisely like Garcia.
Open Tues.-Solar. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Closed Mon.)
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