Immigrants Bring Authentic Tijuana Tacos to Arizona

v i s u a l i z i n g   i m m i g r a n t   P h o e n i x


Sanhareb Nano

March 2018

One of the most common foods associated with Mexico is the taco. Often, authentic and flavorful Mexican tacos come from a restaurant that takes pride in its food. Tacos Tijuana is a family owned restaurant that transports the taste of fresh and authentic food from Tijuana, Mexico to the Phoenix and Glendale area in Arizona. In my first visit to Tacos Tijuana in February 2018, I enjoyed freshly made tacos, and immersed myself in the wonderful atmosphere; it was a truly special experience. Upon entering the restaurant, I noticed the colorful paintings of Mexican scenes covering the wall next to the entrance. Mainstream Mexican music was playing inside the restaurant, and the aroma of fresh tortillas was tantalizing. Tacos Tijuana’s menu is simple, but delicious. It includes various styles of beef or pork served on a freshly handmade tortilla with a selection of salsas, and bottled drinks.

I decided to re-visit Tacos Tijuana to learn more about what makes this immigrant-run business such a success. In my second visit, my purpose was to talk, listen and understand what makes this such a wonderful place. I talked to Alex, the owner’s son, who happened to be working in the back that night. Alex is in his early 20’s, he is currently taking time-off from pursuing his education to help his father run the restaurant. In my conversation with Alex, he mentioned that his parents migrated from Tijuana to Arizona in 2001; the family decided to follow one of his brothers who found a job power-washing in Arizona. But his father always had a passion for making the best tacos in town, therefore, he started a Tacos Tijuana food truck in early 2016. The family’s food truck is located on 67th Avenue just north of Thunderbird Road. Alex told me how they started this business: “My father decided to start a food truck as a weekend job. It was a family operated food truck run by my brothers, my in-laws, and I.”


This small and family operated food-truck received incredible recognition and love from its customers. The local families, many of them Latino migrant descendants and landscapers, were the main customer at Tacos Tijuana. Their customers became more diverse over time and Tacos Tijuana has become one of metro Phoenix’s favorite food trucks.


Considering their success and increase in revenue, Tacos Tijuana started to employ new workers, expand its payroll and expand operating days to five days a week. On December 8th, 2017, Tacos Tijuana opened a new restaurant on 51st Avenue and Bell Road.


Tacos Tijuana brings the flavor of Tijuana to metro Phoenix. Alex’s father, Adolfo Torres has over thirty years of experience in creating tasty recipes to present the best tacos. The Al Pastor taco at Tacos Tijuana is one of a kind, a marinated spicy pork meat shoulder sliced to small chunks. Al Pastor tacos are known for their spiciness and are derived from Central Mexico. Although, far from Adolfo’s hometown, Arizonans can be certain to experience Tijuana’s best tacos here. Perhaps the emergence of restaurants serving specific regional cuisines from states such as Tijuana is a sign of the maturing of the Mexican immigrant community in Phoenix. During my conversation with Alex, he recalls the hardship his father went through to help fulfill his dream of making the best tacos in town, as well as to provide for the family and support his children’s education. In his own words, Alex said of his father, “Without him, none of this would have been here. He is very passionate about his recipes, and he showed me and my siblings the right way through his work ethic.”


Adolfo Torres’s family shows the essential role migrants have in our society, both economically and culturally. Their sincerity clearly reflects on the positive atmosphere surrounding their workplace. Migrants from around the world transport to our city their tremendous cultural values, vibrant ideas, and exceptional kindness.