This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES Mexico.
The taco is to Mexico what the hamburger is to the United States, the arepa to Venezuela, Maradona's left to Venezuela, legal marijuana to the Netherlands, or "The Girl from Ipanema" is to Brazil.
Its artist, the taquero, holds an almost mythic status in Mexico City culture. He's the person who can lift your spirits with a joke, or make you a taco that makes everything better. They're the people who stay late working and who start early, because it's never not a good time to eat a taco. That's why taqueros see drunk, brokenhearted people show up at 3 AM, looking to keep their demons at bay by eating as many tacos as possible. They see celebrations shared by friends, dinners shared by ex-lovers, work lunches.
Luís has logged nearly 20 years as a taquero in a family restaurant. His father was the previous owner, and after his retirement, Luís took charge of the family business. "I can't imagine doing anything other than slicing the meat from the rotisserie for tacos al pastor," he says. He told us how you should treat a taquero.
A little conversation isn't a bad thing
Asking for a taco usually goes pretty fast, unless it's a tourist and you have to explain every little detail or the customer wants something special (like the doneness of the meat, another type of tortilla, or a special salsa). So, it's nice when people want to talk with us, or even just responds with "good morning" or "how's it going"—it makes everything more pleasant and we're inclined to prepare the taco with more energy.
Tips are also important
Since we got a credit card terminal, things have changed a little, because we can add the percentage tip that the client would like to give. But when they pay in cash, the vast majority of people decide not to give a tip. Perhaps since we're not dressed as servers, well, they feel like we're some other type of service provider or something; it's strange.
The tip is also important for us. Here, we divide it weekly among the employees and, even if you don't believe it, it makes a huge difference for us.
Don't show up drunk and fuck with us
I understand that the first thing you want after partying is a taco, and that's great. But sometimes drunk customers can be really annoying (and even dangerous). One time, there was a couple who was so drunk that we had to ask them to leave. They started to mess with customers at the other tables, and the whole atmosphere became really tense. Because of our location, we have a lot of foreigners and families, so it's preferable to lose a drunk client than a whole family who just came to enjoy the food.
I put myself in their place and it must be a terrible experience; we always want people who eat here to leave happy because that means they'll come back later or they'll talk about us with their friends. This is a family taquería. There are other taquerías that are more for drunks. Don't show up drunk to fuck with us.
We sell tacos—this isn't a pizzeria!
You'd be surprised how many people come to this taquería and ask if we have other kinds of food. OK, maybe the whole world doesn't love tacos, but it's odd when people ask us if we sell other things. Once, a group of young people showed up at 11 PM and a couple of them got mad because we didn't have pizza.
It's one of the stranger things that's happened to us, but hey, that's life. Yes, there are restaurants that have a variety of dishes, but we're a Mexican taquería. The first thing you see when you walk by is our spit for taco meat. I mean, I don't think I'd order a pizza here even if we offered it on the menu. It's like if I had a seafood spot and you came and asked for Colombian food.
If we tell you the salsa is spicy, believe us
We have a lot of tourists, given our location. So we have to function a bit differently from a normal taquería. We always have to explain that this salsa is more spicy than the other salsa, the differences in the types of tortilla, meats, etc. We've had many experiences where tourists have doused their taco in spicy salsa and have left really angry because "they didn't know the salsa was so spicy."
All of our servers are trained. They know that as soon as they put the salsa on the table, they have to describe each one and identify which ones are spicy, since we've had customers leave angry and even refuse to pay.