Chico's Tacos talks to CBS4 about the success of the business
EL PASO, Texas (CBS4) —
You have heard their name and you definitely have had their food. Now for the first time in years, the owner of Chico's Tacos' are opening up with CBS4 anchor Jessie McDonough about the success of their business, the legacy left behind by their father and the answers to some of those burning questions you have asked us online.
"I love Chico’s. I am always here,” said customer Lynn Santiago.
“I am here for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said customer Lori Leigh Jimenez.
Although the family who owns the restaurant usually keeps a low profile, it's no secret that Chico's Tacos is legendary in the borderland.
"This is the number one place to come to for tacos,” said customer Justine Arzola.
The first Chico’s Tacos was started on Alameda in 1953 and now there are four locations. Joe Mora started the restaurant to support his family 63 years ago. Since then, his son Bernie, says he and his brothers have followed their dad's advice and always kept it simple. Chico's still only accepts cash.
"We get a better deal from the vendor and then we pass the savings onto the customer, So we'll do it as long as we can get away with it,” said Chico’s Tacos managing partner Bernie Mora.
"We have the same menu that he started with in 1953 and we haven't changed one thing,” said Bernie Mora.
However Chico’s wasn’t always a family business. Joe started Chico’s with some friends who bailed on the rolled taco biz after only a few months.
"When he came up with the idea, everybody said that's not a taco and he said no that's Chico's Tacos. He came up with the identity then and made that the signature dish,” said Bernie Mora.
Joe Mora refused to give up.
“He worked hard. He worked seven days a week forever without a day off,” said Bernie Mora.
14 years later, Chico's added a second location which, is the store on Montana that stayed open until earlier this year.
"He just stayed with it. He knew it would take off and it did but it was by no means overnight,” said Bernie Mora.
During the 63 years; the Moras have been serving up their rolled tacos, Chico’s has even been part of some urban legends.
Rumors swirled through the borderland that the family was actually denied land for another location on the west side of town due to their Mexican heritage. We pushed Bernie for answers.
"That's completely untrue. I do not know where that even came from,” he said.
In fact, Bernie says the borderland has welcomed Chico's family business with open arms.
"We get a kick out of how El Paso has kind of adopted us. We are flattered and we appreciate it,” said Bernie Mora.
In 1992, Bernie says his dad died peacefully in his sleep. Now Joe’s legacy is carried on by his three sons who run the restaurants.
Business is still booming. Chico's has won countless awards and has been featured on the Cooking Channel and the Food Network.
But what keeps customers lining up for this rolled saucy dish?
Is it the 30-year veteran employees who roll the meat and spices in fresh tortillas?
Or is it the mom and pop atmosphere?
"These envelopes that I am using, these are actually the daily envelopes that my father came up with in 1953 and we still use them,” said Bernie Mora.
We investigated and found only one logical explanation.
“The sauce,” said customer Lynn Santiago.
"The sauce is something that my dad came up with way back and we don't even know how he came up with it. It probably stems from family and friends cooking that gave him the idea,” said Bernie Mora.
"Actually the food preps do sign a waiver of non-disclosure. We do have them sign a non-disclosure of the recipe,” said Bernie Mora.
Chico’s Tacos is El Paso tradition going strong and Bernie says they’re here to stay.
"For me and my brothers it is almost like a duty. We have to keep it up for the family and for the community,” said Bernie Mora.
Just don't ask what's in their secret sauce. Chico’s does plan on expanding with another restaurant in the borderland possibly to replace the one that just closed on Montana.
They are scoping out several locations but are reviewing traffic concerns before they make their final selection on which part of town to put the new restaurant.