PINE ISLAND -- “My husband said, ‘We found a place.’ I said for what? He’s like, ‘For a taco shop.’ I was like, ‘We’re doing that?’”
Shortly after that conversation around Christmas 2017, Carmen Garcia and her husband made their way to Pine Island. It was January, 10 degrees below zero, 5 p.m., with not a single person in sight.
Garcia said it was dead. Her husband, who she admits has the vision for the business, disagreed, saying it was perfect.
Now, more than a year later, the Garcia family is serving authentic Mexican food at Taqueria Let’s Go Tacos on Main Street.
This isn’t a typical Mexican restaurant. You aren’t greeted by a bowl of salsa with some chips. There aren’t ground beef tacos ready to be ordered. And guacamole and queso dip isn’t available at a moment's notice.
“I explain it by our name,” Garcia said. “I let people know the word on our name, taqueria, means taco shop. We’ve never claimed to be a Mexican restaurant. Nowhere does it say Mexican restaurant. I always refer to it as a taco shop because I know the conception or idea from people’s minds immediately when you think Mexican food is a Mexican restaurant.”
The menu is based off of Garcia and her husband’s upbringing. They test things out, try different things. It’s all about experimenting to find the perfect recipe.
Take Garcia’s flan recipe. Usually, flan calls for six eggs. However, Garcia said that often takes on an overly eggy flavor. Garcia has found a recipe that keeps the flan at its regular consistency, but with an improved flavor and just half the eggs.
Let’s Go Tacos is fast food, but made to order, not lacking in quality. The steak isn’t sitting in a warmer , waiting for people to order it. Garcia and the rest of her family want to make sure the food you're getting is always flavorful and worth the trip.
“If they’re not being made fresh, then we’re not going to make it,” Garcia said.
This isn’t a family of chefs. Garcia said when they lived in Los Angeles, they owned a taco franchise, but couldn’t keep up with the stiff competition. After moving to Minnesota six years ago they hadn’t necessarily thought about pursuing a food venture again.
Garcia said they want to make food that not only their customers will be proud of, but make food they can be proud of as well.
“Our mentality is, if nobody came, would we eat the food? The food that we made, and if no one came and this was a big failure, could we turn around and say, ‘Hey, well nobody came but there’s all this food, would I give it to my children, would I feed it to my family?’ And the answer is yes,” Garcia said. “And if we’re going to make anything that isn’t that, then we wouldn’t, we wouldn’t serve the food.”
Garcia said a customer came in asking for tacos the way the chef would eat them. Confused, Garcia wondered what the customer meant. The customer explained people wanted the tacos to be better, saying they didn’t want the “gringo” quality taco, assuming they reduce the taste and flavor for the Pine Island community.
That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. What you eat is what the Garcia family eats.
The misconceptions about their business can be difficult, Garcia said. While she stays away from it as best as she can, online reviews have gotten to her sometimes.
What they’re doing isn’t Americanized-Mexican restaurant convention. At Let’s Go Tacos, Garcia is always up front. Her husband is always on the grill. Their kids are helping, too.
“I’m not spending time with my family and children for the pure joy of making money,” Garcia said. “We’re doing this because we honestly want to build in this town. We want to stay here and grow.”
Let’s Go Tacos is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday.