El Taco: The taco shop making a name for itself on Drexel’s campus and beyond
Edna and Alvaro Luna didn’t know a thing about running a small business when they launched their taco shop. Now, it’s a must-visit in University City.
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Situated between two pizza shops in Powelton Village is a family-owned taco eatery that has been causing quite the stir on Drexel University’s campus since its opening.
The restaurant, called El Taco, has been a part of the Drexel community since February 2018, and thanks to their loyal customers, have been selling mouthwatering Mexican cuisine since.
Edna and Alvaro Luna, who were both born in Guatemala, developed a love for cooking ever since they were young.
“My mom owned a restaurant in Antigua, Guatemala for 15 years and that really taught me a lot about cooking food by using all-natural ingredients,” Edna Luna, the co-owner of El Taco, said to AL DIA News in a recent interview.
Edna and Alvaro wanted to focus on Mexican food because it is close to Edna’s heart. Her love of salsa-making highlights her love for the Mexican culture.
Her mother always told her that it is crucial to show other Latino cultures by cooking food.
“My mother used to make Argentinian food all of the time and would sell it to her customers,” she said.
She was also taught the importance of wholesome, homemade cooking that is ingrained in Latino culture.
“I wanted to talk to my husband about opening a restaurant, and we both decided to work on that,” said Edna.
The couple had knowledge about cooking and creating recipes, but they knew nothing about the small business industry.
“We didn’t know how to start, so eventually we talked to a friend of my husbands,” she said.
Alvaro’s friend, who also owns a restaurant in University City, and who is a big fan of Edna’s cooking, decided to help invest in the company.
Although Luna was grateful for the partnership, he described the making of a restaurant as an overwhelming experience.
“There is just a lot of building and permits, but luckily, I had a lot of guidance from my friend,” said Alvaro.
Edna, who has a degree in Graphic Design, also worked hours every day to make sure their restaurant was as unique and authentic as their recipes.
As their opening day approached, Alvaro and Edna grew worried that their first day wouldn’t be as profitable.
“There was a Chipotle near us, so we were kind of nervous about that,” he said.
Despite the massive chain’s presence, the first day was a resounding success.
“I spoke to a college student who told me he was so excited to try our food,” said Alvaro. “He ended up being the president of a fraternity and called all of his friends, out of nowhere our restaurant was packed, it was crazy.”
After that event, El Taco became the spot on campus, not only for students, but also other residents in University City.
“In the beginning, I would say that 90% of our customers were students, now it is about 50%,” he said.
As the reality of COVID-19 set in last year, they closed indoor dining and focused on using delivery services such as GrubHub, UberEats, and DoorDash.
“We were actually part of the Kitchens Without Borders, a program that DoorDash started,” said Alvaro.
Kitchens Without Borders is a program that was designed to support immigrant-owned restaurants. Through the program, they identify one restaurant per city, and ended up choosing El Taco to support.
“Thankfully, that program helped us with a lot of delivery services,” he said.
Another reason why their business has been successful is because of the love that Edna puts in her cooking.
One must-have, Edna says, is the previously-mentioned homemade salsa.
“We have so many different kinds of salsa that I love to make,” she said.
One, in particular, is her creamy cilantro salsa that most customers order with their crunchy, hard-shell tacos.
Another favorite is their spin on Mexican fries, served with black beans, cheese sauce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and pickled jalapenos. Customers can also add chicken or beef to it if they are feeling extra hungry.
“We love cooking for our customers, especially customers who have been supporting us throughout this time,” he said.