Denton’s taco culture thrives

Denton’s taco culture thrives

Denton’s taco culture thrives
February 24
23:25 2014

Obed Manuel // Senior Staff Writer

Within a one-mile stretch on East McKinney Street, past the Denton Square and the railroad tracks, sit four small, rest-stop style restaurants.

These taco shops, or taquerias, as they are called in Spanish, represent a different side of the independent business identity of Denton. From 2000 to 2010, Denton’s Hispanic population grew by more than 35,000 local residents.

Carlos Nuñez Jr., second in command at Taqueria Guanajuato, said that he has seen a lot more Hispanics since his parents opened the restaurant in June 2006.

“There’s definitely a lot more Hispanic people now,” Nuñez said. “We’ve been here for a while already. We’ve had customers that have been coming since we opened.”

Nuñez said the restaurant sees a variety in its clientele on a daily basis, from curious university students to next-door neighbors.

“We try to keep it as authentic as we can,” Nuñez said. “We try to keep it as fresh, too.”

Michelle Cunningham, economic development office for the city of Denton, said the variety in the market is representative of the population change as well as the blending of cultures.

“Good food speaks to everyone regardless of their gender, ethnicity or anything else,” Cunningham said.  “We Texans love our Mexican food.”

As far as business goes, Cunningham said, there is an added bonus to students and locals not only enjoying a different culture but also supporting small businesses.

“If you’re a student who comes to UNT and you don’t have any exposure to other cultures other than the ubiquitous fast food culture, you have the chance to try authentic local food,” Cunningham said. “I don’t see how there couldn’t be anything but positive consequences that college students have access to affordable meals.”

Jose Ralat-Maldonado, food and beverage editor for Cowboys and Indians Magazine, said the taquerias bring more than a different style of eating.

“These people work in basic anonymity and they have amazing stories that help build communities,” Ralat-Maldonado said. “They’re just as valuable as the tacos they sell and as the people who eat those tacos.”

Ralat-Maldonado said he has eaten at about 500 taquerias, mostly in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He said the affordability of the meals at taquerias is an added benefit for university students.

“If you don’t have a lot of money, only a couple of bucks, you could probably get a taco,” Ralat-Maldonado said. “They offer students a quick fix, something they can afford.”

Gricelda Samano, owner of La Estrella Mini Market, said what she enjoys most when running her small business is the fact that she can offer meals to palates that are not accustomed to eating this kind of food.

“We’re able to show them and to share with them our culture because tacos is our culture,” Samano said.

Samano, an international business senior at UNT, said that her taqueria and the others in the area also offer the growing Hispanic population a sense of familiarity.

“What I think we can offer is a sense of belonging. A sense of eating the food that you grew up with,” Samano said.

Around the crack of midday, a customer walked in to the cramped space at La Estrella and said to Samano, “I hear you make good tacos.”

Samano smiled and responded, “We have the best tacos.”

Feature photo: Carne asada, chorizo and al pastor tacos from Taqueria Guanajuato. Tacos come in a variety of cuts, from beef, chicken and pork. Photo by Obed Manuel / Senior Staff Writer

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