TO’s Tacos translates to “Uncle Tacos”, as I mentioned in my recent column at Riverside Restaurant. It encourages the reader to bring Roger Kissinger to Taco Tia, a local chain whose name means “Aunt Taco”.
Uncle Tacos means at least something, since the owner, Martin Sanchez’s nickname Uncle, was given to him as a child because he was a leader. But Aunt Taco?
No aunt was involved, and Taco Auntie was not the real choice, as Gustavo Arellano wrote in “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.”
When Glenn Bell was preparing to open a Mexican restaurant on Baseline Street in San Bernardino in 1954, an art student came up with the idea of a fair-Mexican-enough look and proposed a reference to the women of Guadalajara called La Taptia.
“Bell’s business partner vetoed the suggestion, arguing that it was too racial, and he proposed a meaningless taco-tia (‘taco aunty’), which he thought was easy to pronounce,” Arelerano wrote.
Became taco-tia, and later taco-tia, no hyphen.
Bell, whose name may be known, previously had a few burger restaurants that sold tacos, starting with Bell Burgers, directly south of Mitla Cafe in San Bernardino.
Bell famously learned the basics of taco from Mitla: fried shells with beef, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. He began selling his version in late 1951, using pre-fried shells to move things across the street at Bell Burgers. It’s now an Amapola Rico Taco, however, and Mitla is still in business.
After success with a few more burger stands that sell tacos, Bell had the courage to drop burgers and specialize in Mexican cuisine with taco-tears, Arellano wrote. The peripatetic bell soon moved to start El Taco and then Dar Winnerschnitzel, which turned to the next Taco-Tia employee, John Gallardy.
And in 1962, Bell hit Peidart – or maybe a gourd of red sauce – with Taco Bell in Downey.
Return to Taco Tia. Kissinger remembers the Riverside locations – one on the 14th, the other in Van Buren – with a home base in San Bernardino on Hunts Lane, where food was cooked and then taken to a small restaurant.
“And,” he concludes dryly, bringing things back to Uncle Tacos / Taco Auntie’s joke, “This is the history of the previous Taco relative.”
But wait, there’s more. By 2010, Taco Tia had landed at three indoor restaurants in San Bernardino, Yusipa and Redlands. Now only the Redlands are left.
I went to 1004 Orange St. last week for a cheap lunch. It’s been many years since I’ve eaten taco with a stiff U-shaped peeled beef filling, chopped lettuce and fried cheese, thinly sliced tomatoes on top.
But it was strangely satisfying, like I was taken to eat in Taco Johns in my Midwest childhood. However, the receipt names the restaurant “Taco Tia 1” – and only.
In short, Redlands has a Taco aunt and Riverside has a Taco uncle. Are there Taco nieces and nephews (Taco Sobrina y Sobrino)? Maybe a Taco cousin (Taco Prima / Taco Primo)? We need to expand this Taco Family Tree.
When we’re talking about Mexican food – and why would we ever give it up? -KCRW’s annual Tortilla Tournament is back, with the judges’ rating of Tortilla in the college-basketball-style bracket.
And this year’s fourth annual tournament started with COVID Tortillaria, keeping it covid-simple that has competed before and developed at least one bracket. That means San Bernardino’s Mitla Cafe (Corn Tortillas) and Riverside’s Anchos Southwest Grill (flour tortillas), both of which did well in 2020, are automatically in debate.
Winners will be announced on October 10 in Smoragasburg, DTLA Open-Air Food Market. Win the best tortilla (as long as it’s from IE)!
The vertical neon sign in Mitchell’s plumbing, which has been considered part of downtown Upland since the 1950s, continued to be “plumbing”, “heating” and “cooling” after the business closed in 2019. For the building as a new operator formula plan, the sign came down recently. “It will go back again,” reports Linda Trounic, president of Downtown Merchants Group. “New tenants will keep their names, but save the sign.” If it comes back, we can shed tears of gratitude.
David Allen wrote on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, that the columns glowed sequentially. Email [email protected], phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolmist on Facebook and follow av davidallen909 on Twitter.