When Rachel Alvarez opened a Tex-Mex takeout restaurant Tu One Oh Tacos at City West Commons in December, she thought she had thought of everything. She filled the menu with fresh, authentic dishes made from scratch. She added signature items including a 210 Puffy Taco (more on that later), Texas Chili Cheese Fries, and Texas Chili.
She opened the walk-in window at her new location, in a mall on West Boulevard and Remount Road, and waited for the Tex-Mex fans to arrive.
It was then that she realized the one thing she hadn’t thought of: she needed to show her customers that her restaurant is not vegan.
You see, Tu One Oh Tacos is sandwiched between two vegan restaurants in an area that is increasingly known for its vegan dining options. Its sign is so close to the Exposed Vegan sign that it’s easy to see why customers might assume they’ll be getting a vegan taco menu at either location.
And while you can eat meatless at Tu One Oh Tacos – Veggierito and Mexican rice, for example – you definitely don’t have to.
So what’s a meatless taco place to do?
“We try to promote as much as we can,” she said. “We go to the public, hand out menus, take samples and walk around the neighborhood so people can taste the food. Our biggest problem is trying to point out to the community that we are here between two vegan places.
Tu One Oh Tacos – a nod to the San Antonio area code – focuses on creating a fresh, high-quality product for customers, Alvarez said. Every item – from sauces to tortillas – is made from scratch.
“We work really, really hard to come here every day to make sure everything is fresh,” Alvarez said.
A taste of Texas
Born in San Antonio, Alvarez was adamant about the flavor of Texas on the menu. The 210 Puffy Taco is a signature menu item and a San Antonio staple. This is a popcorn and fried tortilla stuffed with chicken or ground beef. It’s topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cotija cheese, and Mexican sour cream.
While some menu items like Texas Chili Cheese Fries, Texas Heat Salsa, and Texas Chili may be here to stay, Alavrez likes to add a little creativity to rotating specials. One of the goals is to do what has not been done.
“I feel like if you go to any other Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant, they all have pretty much the same menu,” she says. “For me, I’m very artistic, so I try to come up with a menu that’s different from what you would find in a typical Tex-Mex restaurant.
Owning her own restaurant means that Alvarez has the opportunity to be as creative as she wants. It’s something she always wanted to do. Prior to COVID-19, Alvarez was general manager of industry. Like many of Charlotte’s restaurants, the place where she worked closed, which finally gave her time to come up with a plan that is now Tu One Oh Tacos. With his skills and experience, along with the guidance of an industry mentor, Alvarez was able to make his dream come true.
“I already owned my own cleaning business, so owning a business was something I always wanted to do,” she said. “I just didn’t know I wanted to be out at a restaurant, but when I first met [my mentor], I learned to operate the restaurant. I knew this was what I wanted to do.
Tu One Oh Tacos may be new, but the owner of the walk-in window concept is looking for ways to expand. There is an upcoming opportunity to partner with a local market to sell their tacos, as well as the hope of having at least a second location in the next few years. The point is to get the word out so people know more about where it is and are picking up take out.
“ Our loyal customers are what keeps us going ”
While the location presents significant challenges, Alvarez continues to focus on brand awareness, hoping to serve more people in the community where the restaurant is located.
“We are reaching out to people who are on social media who are not part of this community, but I really want the community here to know that we have fresh, authentic tacos,” Alvarez told CharlotteFive. “We are trying to find different ways to try to differentiate ourselves.”
While waiting for word to get out, Alvarez said returning customers have kept the business going.
“We get so many compliments on the quality of our food,” she says.
So whether you’re herbal, carnivorous, or somewhere in between, this might be the place to get your next Tex-Mex fix. And stay tuned: Alvarez said she plans to expand to more places in the future.
1540 West Boulevard, office 101
Single storey window only
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11 am to 8 pm; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. closed on Mondays.