By Brittany Maroney
Photos by Claudia Johnstone
At the heart of Los Taquitos’ success story is a love for family, friends and food from home. It flavors every inch of their four locations and has created a bond between seven siblings, with cooking in their blood. And it’s what their raving fans return for, week after week.
The story of Los Taquitos dates back more than 25 years, when the parents of the Ochoa siblings used family recipes to prepare small homemade tacos, serving them from a small hand-drawn cart. After moving from Mexico to California, they eventually relocated to Phoenix where they decided to put down roots and open a small restaurant.
Years later, with guidance from their mother and inspiration from the memory of their father, the five sisters and two brothers have borrowed on those traditions and are building their own restaurant empire in Los Taquitos.
Adriana Ochoa and her siblings opened the first location of Los Taquitos in Ahwatukee in 2000. The space was a previous florist shop that can only be described as tiny.
“I suppose you could compare the excitement of opening that first restaurant as how you feel when you move into your own place,” says Adriana Ochoa, oldest sister and head of the Ochoa family business. “We had worked in our parents’ restaurant as kids, but now we’d be running our own. We laugh about how we opened. The day came that everything was ready and we basically said ‘okay, we’re open now.’ The only difference was the door was unlocked and my brother fired up the grill. I don’t know if we got more than a few people, but we were thankful.”
Since that day, Los Taquitos has been serving up family-inspired dishes like delicious street-style tacos, burritos, ceviche, pozole, chilaquiles and other Mexican favorites. From their marinades to the use of spices, each recipe is followed just as it was years ago in order to deliver simple, authentic, great-tasting food.
Yet, their success was not always certain. Like most restaurant operators, they faced stiff competition, high operating costs and seasonal shifts in visitors. In 2008, the economy crashed and Los Taquitos seemed on the verge of closure. That’s when they received a phone call from Food Network that would change their luck.
“One of our customers contacted the show and told them [Food Network] about us. We didn’t know about it until the production company contacted us,” Ochoa says
After a serious vetting by producers, Guy Fieri appeared to shoot episode 61 of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives for the Food Network, called Mex to the Max. The Ochoa sisters blew him away with their energy and use of cola and condensed milk when marinating their street tacos. Show host Fieri was head over heels for the carnitas street taco, calling it “killer” and claiming it was “one of the best he’d ever had.”
“Guy [Fieri] and the production crew were really nice and a lot of fun,” Adriana reflects. “It was two days of cameras, bright lights, lots of cooking and a restaurant packed with people, all while we remained open. Guy had a lot of energy and was fun to be around; you could see that he takes cooking and food seriously.”
Fieri remains a lifelong fan and recently returned to shoot an additional episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives at Los Taquitos, picking them as one of his favorite restaurants in Arizona. The episode is set to air in 2019 on the Food Network.
Thanks to the show and their incredible recipes, Ochoa and her siblings have seen their business grow. Three of her sisters each operate one of the four locations in Phoenix, Chandler and at the Phoenix Airport, and they recently opened a fifth location on 32nd Street and Arcadia (her brother Rafael is the builder).
It’s no secret that this family is proud of what they do. Proud of their recipes, their craft and the joy that their food provides.
“We work hard and take pride in cooking and preparing delicious, authentic food,” Ochoa says. “We really are a true, family-owned restaurant obsessed with cooking and serving great-tasting dishes. Having people come to your restaurant to eat your food is such a privilege, so we want to honor that as best we can.”