It’s been a busy few years for Gabriel Hernandez and his wife, Gabriela Ramirez, founders of Pensacola’s fast-growing Tacos Mexicanos.
The couple began a humble quest to serve up the kind of tacos they love to eat at home, like Hernandez’s best-selling “awesome taco,” which was designed to include all of his personal favorite toppings, like fresh avocado, cilantro, grilled onions and queso. fresco accompanied by a homemade salsa.
The business has since spun off into two food trucks, a new brick-and-mortar restaurant that opened just days ago, and a brand new mystery concept called Gaby’s Taqueria that’s set to open at 104 E. Gregory St. this month.
“It’s definitely like being a baby, it’s like trying to raise kids,” Hernandez said. “Everything becomes what your life becomes, it’s all about that. It’s all about the business now.”
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Many restaurants, little time
Hernandez had worked for corporate restaurants in Houston, Texas, where the two met, but opening his own restaurant was never originally planned.
“A year after we arrived in Pensacola, we couldn’t find a place to buy tacos. There were a few places, but we just didn’t know about them,” Hernandez said. “We were like, ‘We need to open a taco bar because we want to eat tacos.'”
The couple began serving the East Hill community with a truck at 3000 N.12th Ave., which still exists today, before coming to the attention of DC Reeves, who brought them into partnership so that a second truck parks in the garden. & Grain Yard at 50 E. Garden St. in 2020.
Their business reached new heights during the pandemic, where they were able to easily accommodate COVID-19 necessities like online ordering, delivery, and transportation.
Since then, the brand has continued to grow. Hernandez was able to secure the first sit-down restaurant, also called Tacos Mexicanos, next to Pensacola State College at 1014 Underwood Ave. and it just opened to the public last week.
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The restaurant will maintain a fast and casual ordering format at the counter, but employees will now give the guest a number and bring the food to the table. He predicts take-out orders will still dominate the day compared to dinner, as many customers appreciate the restaurant’s online ordering system, he said.
The new restaurant’s menu features many familiar dishes, like street tacos, burrito bowls, quesadillas and wraps. However, the larger space allows for potential new additions over time.
“We’re definitely going to entertain the idea of rolling out menu items that, if they stick, can live in a space like this,” Hernandez said. “We hope that people who live and work in this neighborhood won’t have to drive to 12th Avenue to enjoy our food, but it will literally be exactly the same for the first two months.”
One of the biggest differences is that Hernandez and Ramirez are no longer alone and have created Artisan Restaurant Group as a way to manage and open more locations.
“It felt like (Gaby) and I were doing everything every day, from opening to closing,” Hernandez said of their debut. “We brought in a team from Texas with people we used to work with and had a lot of experience.”
Hernandez said there was a certain learning curve in the transition from truck to restaurant, one being how to design a physical space when all they knew was the quarters near the kitchen. of the truck.
“We tried one thing, we had to paint the walls multiple times because we couldn’t get it right,” Hernandez said. “Then our new partners who helped us from the Artisan Restaurant Group came in with a great design vision and they have really good taste when it comes to designing spaces.”
Now the restaurant has come alive with its candy pink walls, café-style bar stools, emerald green tile backsplashes, vintage Mexican tables, freshly painted murals and living ferns. Lots of ferns.
Another refreshing change was the option to sell alcohol, which Hernandez said was a piece the couple said was always missing from food trucks.
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Gaby’s Taqueria: coming soon
Gaby’s Taqueria, the restaurant group’s second new brick-and-mortar restaurant, will feature Cali-Mex style with some new takes on traditional Mexican cuisine, venturing more into breakfast tacos and seafood options. sea.
Although not much information has yet been released about Gaby’s, this restaurant and Tacos Mexicanos should be different enough that they can be opened side-by-side while providing diners with different experiences, Hernandez said. (Stay up to date with pnj.com for the latest information on the new restaurant.)
The group is also simultaneously developing a Gaby’s Taqueria location in Destin.
While there’s plenty of room for other dining concepts in the future, Hernandez said he’s sticking with existing concepts for now.
The Tacos Mexicanos storefront is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. More information on the Tacos Mexicanos Facebook page.