Photo: Tina Larkin, published in Taos News
Originally published in Taos News
Tacos and burritos are among the most popular Mexican comfort foods. Taqueria El Torito, a taco cart located in Valerio Plaza, offers them in many permutations that go from the mildly spicy taco de asada, made with steak, to a really hot burrito de chicharron en salsa verde—fried pork rinds smothered in green chile. In between is the vegetarian burrito, prepared with beans, cheese, lettuce, avocado and tomato.
The taco (and more) operation is the work of Chihuahua natives Yadira Valerio and Merced Bustillos.
Carving a new life
Varela and Bustillos came to the United States in June 2009. They are from Nicolas Bravo, a small village in the Chihuahua Mountains. Like many other immigrants, they wanted to carve a new life for themselves and offer a better future to their children.
“We came to Taos looking for work and found it in Rosita’s, helping Don Pepe make tortillas,” said Varela. “I am very grateful for the opportunity that he gave us because we didn’t know anybody here.”
Later they both took jobs at La Chavelita, where they learned to prepare traditional New Mexican dishes.
Varela also worked with Tina Leonard, the owner of Tina’s Burritas, for two years. She considers Leonard her mentor in the food business
“Tina loves to help others,” she said. “She didn’t only teach me about cooking, but also about time management and budget planning. It all came in handy when we launched our Taqueria.”
In the meantime, Varela and Bustillos started attending the UNM-Taos Adult Learning Center to take English and general education classes. Varela received her GED diploma in 2012 and wants to thank all the instructors and staff members, particularly her teacher Paula Oxoby-Hayett.
Gracias, Taos Food Center
Varela and Bustillos opened Taqueria El Torito in February 2013. They began their business with the help of the Taos Food Center at TCEDC, where they prepare and store their food.
“We had thought about having a taco cart for a few months and their encouragement motivated us to take the first step,” said Bustillos. “Since the Taos Food Center is a certified kitchen, we can make everything there and be in compliance with all the food safety regulations.”
“Their training, marketing and product development classes have also been very valuable,” Varela said. “We are so grateful for their support.”
The chef and his familia
Though Varela helps her husband in the kitchen, Bustillos is the designated chef. He has always liked cooking, but it was here in Taos where he decided to make a career out of it,
“Everybody at home likes my tacos and burritos,” he said, “so I thought, ‘they must not be too bad… we’ll see what other people say.’”
It seems that others like them too because clients keep flocking to the Taqueria.
Bustillos and Varela have been married seventeen years and have three daughters. The youngest, who just celebrated her second birthday, is now in daycare.
“I miss her, but I have to be here,” Varela said.
Amy, who is sixteen years old, goes to Taos High School, and Daisy, who is twelve, attends Middle School. They are now at the Taqueria, eating tacos de asada.
“We come by every day after class,” Daisy says.
I ask them if they help their parents with the business.
“Not really,” Amy answers. “We just come here to eat. My dad’s taquitos are the best.”
What to order
The Taqueria’s menu includes tacos, tortas and burritos. They can be prepared with different kinds of meat like asada (steak), al pastor (pork), chicken, or ham, or be totally vegetarian.
Tacos and burritos come wrapped in tortillas while tortas are made with bread.
“A torta is basically a sandwich,” Bustillo said. “But the chile and our special homemade salsa make them very Mexican.”
La torta del Chavo
El Chavo del Ocho is a popular Mexican television sitcom about a poor orphan named Chavo, who is often hungry and whose favorite meal is a ham and cheese torta.
“So we created la torta del Chavo,” said Varela. “Of course, it comes with lettuce, tomato and avocado.”
And there are chilindrinas, puffed flour fritters. They are also called chicharrones de harina, flour rinds.
“By the way, there is also a character named Chilindrina in El Chavo del Ocho,” said Varela. “She is a freckled, precocious girl who has a crush on Chavo.”
The mero-mero tacos
Armando Medrano has been eating here since the first week the Taqueria was open.
“I drove by and saw the name, El Torito, so I stopped to find out what the ‘little bull’ was all about,” he said, laughing. “It turned out to be great! Merced and Yadira know how to make very good burritos, with the best seasoning and salsas.”
Martha Rostelli is from Veracruz and says that she is delighted with the tacos she buys here twice a week.
“I used to own a restaurant in Playa de Carmen and know what a good taco is, and I can tell you that these are mero-meros,” she said. “They are super tacos, in fact.”
Taqueria El Torito is located at 1803 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, in Valerio Plaza.
It is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.