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Taqueria Guanajuato a family affair

Local Mexican restaurant offers traditional favorites

Posted: November 19, 2017 at 6 a.m.

A hearty soup made from chick peas and pork is a popular traditional dish at the Taqueria.
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A hearty soup made from chick peas and pork is a popular traditional dish at the Taqueria.

Tony Morales enjoys working for his family's restaurant business.

"My parents started it 13 years ago with this location. "My uncle

has been here since we started." Maria and Benigno Morales and Tony's uncle Lupe were born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States. Tony, now in his twenties, was born in California. The family moved to the Fayetteville area years ago. They all take pride in serving up traditional homemade Mexican favorites. It was, he said, a dream of his parents who just wanted to make people happy with food.

"It's just something that my parents wanted to do,"said. "They wanted to make food. They thought they made good food at home so they branched out."

Tony was involved from an early age.

"Oh man... I started when I was in High school," he said. "Yea, I was like a freshmen (in high school) and I'd come in on the weekends. I played baseball, but sometimes during the summer I'd be here eight to five or whenever my dad came in. I would go play baseball in the afternoon. I'd come in and help after games and practice."

Flavorful fiesta

While the flavors encountered at taqueria are complex, Tony said they are still traditional Mexican favorites.

"It's something that you are not going to get at another restaurant-style place," he noted. "It's taqueria food."

A "taqueria" is often a smaller restaurant specializing in tacos and other Mexican dishes.

The taqueria offers a wide variety of filling and classic entrees for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even some late night weekend options.

Beef, chicken, pork and shrimp are standards. However, a few dishes allow diners to step out of their comfort zone.

"The lingua (sliced beef tongue) is soft," he said. "People think it's going to be something different. But, when they taste it they change their minds quickly about it."

True to the food

No matter the dish, Tony believes that if you stay true to the food and to quality customer service, diners will come back.

"If you make good food people will go where it is," he said. "Just treating people with respect when they get here and attending to them quickly is vital. If you're in a small place, and not greeted and served quickly, they are just likely to get up and walk away."

While Tony spends much time in the kitchen, he understands it's all about running a tight operation.

"We try to keep everything running smooth," he said. "There are lot of repeat customers. There are some familiar faces that come around and we enjoy that. It shows that they enjoy the food and service.

Tony admits, most of his culinary knowledge was learned from his family and over time.

"Man, to be honest," he said. "It's my parents. When we got started we didn't know very much about the restaurant business. We just got a place, learned from the people there and started adding our own seasoning. We didn't know at first, but you learn and adjust. You make things that you think are good and people react well and they come back."

Parental supervision

Even after more than a dozen year's experience in the Taqueria business, Tony's parents still stay closely involved.

"My parents are here maybe two to three times a week," he laughed. "They keep an eye on me and make sure the salsa turns out right."

That kind of quality control is vital, he said.

Oh yea, you have to make sure it's consistent," he insisted. "The salsas are what people come for. When you get tacos, you must put salsa on them. We make our own red and green salsa and a habanero salsa is very popular because it's very spicy. If the salsas aren't right the meal won't be as enjoyable. It's a lot of rinse and repeat, but I enjoy it."

Open at 8 am daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the taqueria is also open late on weekends for a late night crowd. The long shifts don't bother Tony and his crew.

"It's two 12-hour shifts and on the weekend," he said. They are long days. But, once you get into the groove and people start coming in time flies by. On the weekend, you're so busy it's a surprise when it's time to go home."

The traditional way

Tony, he said, loves the taqueria's diverse customers. They are a fun crowd.

"It's people who like going to dance clubs at night... the Mexican club or other clubs around here," he said. "It's Spanish speaking people and you have your night owls who are up late who swing by and have a taco or burrito. It's an interesting crowd, maybe a little rowdy, but they respect the restaurant and other customers. It's still a family place and people still come with their kids, even when it's later at night."

Tony knows the secret to taqueria's success is pretty simple.

"People are not going to pay for something that's not good," he said. "You have to make it reasonably priced and, if they like it, they will come back."

While some dishes are made easily in the home kitchen, Tony said he sees a difference when it's made in a traditional way by a staff who has years of experience.

"If you come in once you are going to get a different flavor that you can't get anywhere else," he said. "It's hard to make it at home. At the end of the day it's just nice to get it somewhere else."

NAN Dining Guide Spotlight on 11/19/2017

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