LOGAN – Benjamin Orozco got his start in the taco business when he was just 7 years old. Growing up in Michoacan, Mexico, he helped his dad from start to finish each day, doing everything from preparing sauces to the actual cooking. When he was 12, he started his own taco business.
Now, more than 2,000 miles north of his Mexican hometown, Orozco is one of the several vendors in the valley selling the traditional “street” tacos. Many of them say the food is gaining popularity locally.
Orozco has had his taco truck in Logan for almost nine years now. On a normal day, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., he parks his truck on the intersection of 800 North and Main sells between 400 and 1,000 tacos. Sticking to a simple menu of just beef steak tacos and soup helps him keep the quality high while still focusing on fast service, but on weekends it gets busy enough his wife helps him handle the crowd.
“There’s only one recipe, its fresh all the time,” he said. “I try to make it fresh and 100 percent good. People come back and come back because they can see the difference.”
The traditional street taco Orozco and other vendors put out doesn’t resemble the Americanized, hard, U-shaped taco. It is typically a small, soft corn tortilla. Instead of ground beef and shredded cheese, they usually contain marinated pork or beef steak topped with cilantro, diced onion and lime.
Orozco isn’t the only Logan vendor to see a growing demand for tacos. Javier De La Cruz opened a taco truck in front of his Los Primos Market about five years ago and has watched it snowball since. He said on Wednesdays, during his two-for-a-dollar special, his employees make between 2,000 and 3,000 tacos in a single afternoon. In addition to steak and pork tacos, his truck sells beef head and beef tongue tacos, which are both common choices in Mexico.
For Logan resident Paul Urzagaste, it is clear the growing craze is real. He was first invited to try Los Primos by a friend when he was a university student a few years ago. Now it is a weekly tradition. As a regular at Los Primos, he too has watched the growth.
“I came two years ago and it was mostly construction workers getting lunch,” he said. “The audience has completely changed. It’s students now, mostly. I think it is because word of mouth.”
On Wednesdays at lunchtime, the market’s eating area is often full of students, and the crowd spills into the parking lot. For USU student Mitchell Keck, it’s a change from the Americanized taco he’s used to that keeps him coming back.
“I’ve never been to Mexico, but these seem like they are authentic,” he said. “It’s not Taco Time.”
De La Cruz said he wants to help the students because the students help him.
“I give it cheaper,” he said. “They like it, and they keep coming. People bring their friends.”
Alicia Lopez is another taco vendor in town. She did similar work in Guadalajara, Mexico and then California, but is new to the Logan taco scene. She opened El Pollo Azteca about a year ago in downtown Logan’s La Ranchera Market. Her restaurant sells pollo asado al carbon – which is chicken grilled over coals – and, of course, tacos. She said people are starting to learn about her restaurant, and business is picking up. It’s especially busy on Tuesdays, when she has her own two-for-a-dollar taco deal.
“The students are starting to come,” she said. “Last year we had a few students, but now more come each time.”
She said her tacos stand out because she makes every tortilla by hand.
“I believe there is a difference in a tortilla made by hand instead of one that is premade,” she said.
De La Cruz’s tacos have been selling so well that when the El Salvador restaurant on the south end of Logan went up for sell a year ago, he saw it as an opportunity to expand. He purchased the restaurant, kept the Salvadoran food on the menu, but added his famous tacos. He even does the two-for-a-dollar deal every Thursday as a way of thanking the customers who have helped him.
De La Cruz said that in order to keep up with the taco sells he needs to expand the size of his kitchen at his new restaurant, but that is far from the case for many vendors. Even with the seemingly increasing street taco hype, not every taqueria has been able to stay open. Orozco said some do better than others, because customers recognize quality.
“Survival is hard,” he said. “A lot of taco trucks come, but many don’t survive because there isn’t good food. If you have good food you’ll survive wherever you go, you know? It’s simple. If you have good food people will come back.”