Currently living in Tijuana, the family business behind Taquiero Taco Patio in Irvine has crafted a concept that is replicating the flavors of authentic Tijuana-style tacos, and merging it with the Mexican craft beer scene.

Now, with two locations in Irvine, and soon-to-be opening in Aliso Viejo, Taquiero Taco owners Roberto Fierro and Sean Young spoke to Irvine weekly about the inspiration behind their Irvine-based taco shop.

While there are many layers of inspiration, mainly both say they were inspired by their childhood experiences of Mexico – long before meeting one another.

However, it was only when Young, a Huntington Beach native, married into Fierro’s family that the two would discover their undying passion for Tijuana taquerias, and later build a partnership over their love for tacos y cerveza.

Photo courtesy of Taquiero Taco Patio

Young explained that his grandfather lived in Mexico, and his family would cross the border often to visit when he was a child. Although he lived in Huntington Beach, Young credits his time in Mexico for shaping his perspective for years to come.

“My grandpa had a house in Rosarito, so I grew up going across the border and eating tacos down there,” Young explained in an interview with Irvine Weekly. “It’s just something that you grow up with – there are such district flavors crossing the border. In Orange County – that didn’t really exist.”

Prior to meeting Roberto Fierro, Young’s current business partner, who grew up in Tijuana, Young met a cousin of the Fierro Family, while attending college at UC San Diego.

It was through this random dorm room connection with Fierro’s cousin that Young would eventually meet his future wife – Fierro’s other cousin, Lariza.

Young and Lariza Fierro would eventually get married and move to Monterrey, Mexico where Lariza attended college. While living in Northern Mexico, Young started a successful frozen yogurt company, where he eventually opened a dozen locations.

Fast forward to 2019, Young said he sold the Fro-Yo biz and took his earnings to invest into the Taquiero Taco concept.

Fierro explained that the pair were initially looking to open the concept in San Diego – as both were (and still currently are) living in Mexico. But, on a whim decided to check out Orange County to see if there was a need for their vision.

“It was amazing where we saw the need for authentic, real tacos. There are other chains, but only in Santa Ana were we able to find something that was worth it – but in Irvine there was nothing,” Fierro explained during a phone interview with Irvine Weekly.

Photo courtesy of Taquiero Taco Patio

The core inspiration behind the Taquiero Taco concept aims to recreate Mexico’s relatively unknown craft brewery scene. In order to bring this vision to fruition, Young explained that they worked with Mexican architects, and enlisted the help of Tijuana-based muralist, Alonso Delgadillo.

“You get transported to Mexico, if you’re having a craft beer from Mexico, handmade tortilla – that’s the feeling we want you to have when you walk in the store,” he said. “[Alonso] has been painting a big mural on every wall, he’s from Tijuana, he’s the most famous muralist from TJ. We worked with a team from TJ, which makes it feel more authentic.”

Still, Young and Fierro explained that there was a need to perfect the menu not just in terms of what is being served – but how those dishes are prepared.

With menu items like Cochinita Pibil, a recipe from the Yucatán that consists of slow-roasted pork that is marinated in citrus juices and wrapped in banana leaf while it is roasted, and a delightfully crunchy Al Pastor, specifically prepared in a unique style known as Dorado – which translates to crispy.

Dorado is a popular way of ordering meat in tacos and burritos in Tijuana, according to Fierro.

To help execute this authentic culinary vision, Fierro explained that the menu was built with the help of renowned Mexican chef and content creator, Chef Alma Fernanda Regalado – who happens to be another cousin within the Fierro family – and Lariza’s sister.

With more than 45,000 Instagram followers Chef Regalado has gained massive notoriety for hosting cooking classes online.

Photo courtesy of Taquiero Taco Patio

“In terms of recipes, my cousin Lariza – Sean’s wife – her sister is a renowned chef down in Mexico, and she helped us a lot with the menu, and we also brought in some Taquieros from the best taquerias that we love in Tijuana,” Fierro explained. “We wanted to make the best tacos. We make our own tortillas, we make our own masa – we have our own mill in house.”

The incorporation of a masa mill at Taquiero Taco was not by mistake, but actually a need discovered after being unable to source traditional, Tijuana-style masa, which according to Young creates a thicker tortilla that is more yellow in color.

Photo courtesy of Taquiero Taco Patio

“When we came up here, we thought, ‘Oh, we’ll just buy the masa in Santa Ana’ – but in Santa Ana, they use a different type of masa than they do in Tijuana,” Young explained. “We couldn’t find the masa we liked, so my sister-in-law, the chef, she taught us how to make masa – we weren’t even planning on doing that, we just couldn’t find a tortilla we liked.”

For Fierro and Young, the most important aspect for their vision was recreating the Tijuana-style vibe as a whole, while including aspects of regional Mexican cuisine, which include Monterrey and Rosarito.

One example of this regional culinary homage is Taquiero Taco’s expansive house-made salsa bar, which features nearly a dozen salsa from different regions in Mexico.

“In Tijuana, there are usually two or three salsas at a taqueria, but when I used to live in Monterrey it’s more common that they’ll give you a big selection of salsa there,” Young said. “Honestly, Mexican food without salsa is sort of bland – there are so many different flavors of salsas in Mexico that a lot of people may not have tried.”

In the coming weeks, Taquiero Taco will expand into Aliso Viejo, adding a third location to the chain. While smaller than the Irvine locations, the owner of Taquiero Taco expressed excitement about expansion and said their mission is to continue to transcend the flavors of Mexico throughout Orange County.

Looking for something to eat? Check out more FOOD coverage around Irvine on Irvine Weekly.