Brawley men take tacos to New York
Tyler Sanders, Christian Pineda and Kyle Cameron's restaurant, Los Tacos No. 1, has opened to rave reviews and constant lines in New York City's Chelsea Market. (Tescia Seufferlein Courtesy Photo / July 16, 2013)
Tyler Sanders, 29, and Kyle Cameron, 24, both of Brawley, and Christian Pineda, 26, of Tijuana, have opened their restaurant, Los Tacos No. 1, to rave reviews and daily long lines in New York City’s Chelsea Market.
While none of them formally studied culinary arts, all three have seemed to crack the New York City restaurant code with their handmade tortillas, simple menu, low prices and authentic styling.
“Opened by three West Coast boys (two from Brawley, California; one from Tijuana), Los Tacos No. 1 is the trio’s vibrant answer to the age-old East Coast quandary, ‘Where the tacos at?’” writes TastingTable.com in a review.
The trio came up with the idea to open the restaurant in January last year and then spent three months in Tijuana working on the recipes and cooking techniques they wanted the restaurant to have.
The menu has basics like carne asada or adobada tacos, the much-treasured local favorite, the special quesadilla and nopal (cactus) quesadillas and tacos for the vegetarians in New York.
The restaurant’s two-month anniversary is Thursday, and roughly 500 people have been served daily since it opened, Sanders said.
While restaurants notoriously open and close routinely in the Big Apple, the trio is confident and unfazed.
“It’s been great. There’s lines out the door every day. They have nothing like this out here,” Sanders said. “It’s authentic as it gets. We cut no corners.”
While most tacos in New York City stylistically originate from southern Mexico, Los Tacos No. 1 offers northern Baja California-style tacos that Valleyites grew up with.
Photos of their travels in Tijuana and the Valley litter the restaurant’s Facebook page so people can see exactly where the restaurant’s inspiration comes from.
The trio even had the well-known artist Steven Powers, also known as ESPO, and his company Icy Signs come to paint all the restaurant’s signage by hand on plywood as is traditionally done in Mexican taco stands.
The restaurant has already been featured in the New York Times’ “Off the Menu” section and has even had celebrities like Guns n Roses’ Axl Rose stop in for a bite.
Sanders’ mother, Lisa Sanders, said she was surprised by the venture given the guys’ backgrounds, with two studying architecture and one film, but very proud of their initial success.
“They couldn’t find a good taco stand there,” she explained. “They were looking for good Mexico food, not Mexican food.”
Lisa Sanders herself knows a thing or two about the restaurant business as manager of the Stockmen’s Club of Imperial Valley in Brawley.
“I’ve eaten carne asada most of my life, and I’m not saying this because he’s my son. They’ve got the best carne asada I’ve ever tasted,” she said. “Everything is fresh there. All of their ingredients are fresh. Some of the recipes are local, some are actually from Tijuana.”
Part of their culinary research included spending time with the Stockmen’s Club chef, who showed them details of certain dishes, Cameron’s mother, Debbie Cameron, said.
“They could not find Mexican food that was good and they lived there for three years,” she added. “When they came home that’s all they wanted.”
They’ve even made a point to use National Beef some of the time to add even more local flavor.
Imperial Valley locals visiting as well as transplants have been stopping in to get a taste of home since the restaurant opened.
“It definitely puts Brawley and the Imperial Valley on the map for our culture and cuisine,” childhood friend and Brawley resident Kaylin Duffy said.
She emailed some friends who live in New York about the restaurant and after they visited, they told her they “never had any Mexican food like that before.”
“It shows that if you put your mind to something you can follow your dream and do whatever you want,” she said.
Sanders hasn’t had a day off in 80 days, and while the three are still pursuing their varied interests in architecture, film and even break dancing, it looks like New York has the appetite to keep Los Tacos No. 1 going.
“They’re all loving what they’re doing and that’s an important thing,” Debbie Cameron said. “To be successful you need to love what you do.”
So if you’re in New York City and get homesick, or even just want to support some local talent, stop by Los Tacos No. 1.
Visit www.lostacos1.com or the “Los Tacos No. 1” Facebook page for more information.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or email@example.com.