HomeNewsHow Roberto's Taco Shop became a Southwest chain, phenomenon

How Roberto’s Taco Shop became a Southwest chain, phenomenon

ANAHEIM, California — Roberto’s, Alberto’s, Filiberto’s, Juanberto’s … When you have lived in or across the Southwest states, odds are you’ve got seen a variation of a “Berto’s” Mexican fast-food restaurant, the bulk possessing an identifiable orange and yellow coloration scheme and a emblem in a cursive font.

Over time, variations of the restaurant — we’ll clarify how and why there are such a lot of — are generally outlined by its carne asada burritos, beef tacos and rolled taco mixture plate, amongst different savory Mexican meals gadgets.

It’s arduous to overlook and what you see is what you normally get wherever there could also be one.

The idea originates from Roberto’s Taco Store, a family-owned fast-food restaurant that originally opened its doorways to San Diego within the late Nineteen Sixties.

The founders have been Roberto, the store’s namesake, and Dolores Robledo, who immigrated from the small city of San Juan del Salado in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

One of many nation’s first Mexican fast-food chains, the family-run Roberto’s Taco Store launched an progressive blueprint that might spur copycats and imitators within the Southwest and even overseas.

A Roberto’s Taco Store in Chula Vista, CA, opened in 1980 by Raul Robledo. Courtesy Roberto’s Taco Store; LLCCourtesy Roberto’s Taco Store; LLC

Greater than 70 variations have been reported throughout the Southwest states and the bulk are owned by individuals who originate from the identical area in Mexico that the Robledos are from. Roberto would encourage relations to work with him and finally advocated for them to open their very own retailers as soon as they received familiarized with the system he helped set up.

“My dad was from the body of thought that that is the land of alternative. And should you’re prepared to work arduous, there’s sufficient enterprise to go round,” recalled Jose Robledo, 52, the youngest of the 13 Robledo kids. “He was at all times there to lend a serving to hand to all people that wished to get into the enterprise.”

An immigrant American dream

Roberto first got here to america within the mid Forties below the Bracero program, which allowed thousands and thousands of Mexican males to legally work within the nation by short-term labor contracts. He would later maintain a number of jobs, together with being a waiter, working in development and washing automobiles on the weekends. When he introduced his spouse and their kids over, Dolores would pack sardines at a cannery and wash resort trade towels for a linen firm.

In 1964, the household bought two adjoining houses in San Ysidro, close to the U.S.-Mexico border. One residence was the place they lived, the opposite was transformed right into a tortilla manufacturing unit to make corn and flour tortillas to ship to different eating places. Additionally they bought bean and cheese burritos, chile verde (inexperienced chile) burritos and chile colorado burritos at the moment.

The Robledos got their start by making tortillas in San Ysidro, California, to sell to restaurants before they opened their own eating establishments.
The Robledos received their begin by making tortillas in San Ysidro, California, to promote to eating places earlier than they opened their very own consuming institutions. Courtesy Roberto’s Taco Store; LLC

“At first, that’s all they bought,” mentioned Reynaldo Robledo, 57, the twelfth of the Robledo kids.

The Robledos would finally purchase 4 companies and function them with the unique institution title comparable to La Lomita and El Gallito.

It wasn’t till the fifth store they bought, a hamburger joint, that they might rename it “Roberto’s #5” below Roberto’s title.

“It was the primary Roberto’s … from there ahead, all of the eating places we opened have been Roberto’s Taco Store,” mentioned Reynaldo, who grew up working within the household enterprise as a prepare dinner.

The enterprise grew to become a ceremony of passage for Reynaldo and his siblings; on the similar time, his father inspired staff from his ranch to open their very own retailers.

Reynaldo has franchised Roberto’s Taco Store in Nevada and says there are 60 shops within the area. Moreover, there are additionally 20 retailers in California and one in Texas, all owned by the unique household.

However that is simply a part of it. Greater than 70 ‘Berto’ variations have been documented throughout the Southwest — and there is a chance there are extra that are not utilizing the “Berto’s” namesake, based on a number of relations.

“All of these persons are from the place my dad’s from,” Reynaldo mentioned.

Whereas different store homeowners could grow to be upset about folks copying and imitating their very own restaurant, Roberto welcomed it.

From Roberto’s to Alberto’s

This is how the “Berto’s” variations happened.

Roberto prided himself over the very fact the eating places served contemporary meals made every day, an ordinary he held at all the retailers he owned and rented others to — and one which continues at the moment by his kids. When Roberto discovered that family weren’t serving meals with contemporary components at one store they rented from him, he wasn’t too joyful.

“My dad informed them to vary the title. And that’s the place Alberto’s got here,” Reynaldo mentioned referring to the primary variant. “The saying goes that on their constructing, that they had Roberto’s simply with block lettering they usually simply purchased a can of paint; modified the R to an A after which half of the O — they simply painted half of it to make it an L.”

Imitators have a tendency to repeat the same orange and yellow coloration scheme and a sombrero-related emblem system. Some added inexperienced and crimson colours and others opted for various emblem fonts or ditched the sombrero fully. However the menu stays comparatively the identical.

A lot of the store’s authentic recipes derive principally from Roberto and Dolores. Again then, the Roberto’s menu was restricted.

Roberto's Taco Shop's acclaimed carne asada burrito.
Roberto’s Taco Store’s acclaimed carne asada burrito.Courtesy Roberto’s Taco Store; LLC

The restaurant initially had six mixture plates and 4 burrito varieties. There at the moment are 22 mixture plates, 12 sorts of burritos and rooster, fish, shrimp and chimichangas, amongst different gadgets have been later added to the menu. The California burrito, carne asada burrito, rolled tacos and beef tacos are among the many store’s bestsellers.

Laura Torres labored with the Robledo household from 1979 to 1984 at one of many authentic retailers in San Diego. Her aunt Dolores, often known as “Doña Lola” to her and others, persuaded her to work within the enterprise after she had issue discovering work in Chicago.

“I stayed to work with them and I appreciated it,” Torres mentioned in an interview translated from Spanish.

Now 65, Torres owns 4 Hilberto’s Mexican Meals retailers, two situated in San Diego County and two in Glendale, Arizona. All comply with the same mannequin put ahead by Roberto’s Taco Store, together with the emblem, colours, meals menu; even the staff are all from the identical “little ranch” in Mexico, she mentioned.

The companies have allowed her to personal two houses, a 2017 Vary Rover and afford holidays in Cancún, Los Cabos, Spain and Italy.

They’ve additionally spurred extra variations; “there’s an infinity of them now,” Torres mentioned.

“It is regular … People who labored with me, discovered they usually went on to different states,” she mentioned, referring to former longtime workers who moved elsewhere to open their very own retailers.

Reynaldo mentioned he solely sells franchises in Nevada to workers who’ve labored with the household for at least 10 years. Even now, greater than 5 a long time later, he says 95% of them are nonetheless folks from the identical Mexican village that his mother and father have been from.

Outside a Roberto's Taco Shop in Nevada in 2014, when the family was in town for the gala celebration of Roberto’s 50th anniversary.
Outdoors a Roberto’s Taco Store in Nevada in 2014, when the household was on the town for the gala celebration of Roberto’s fiftieth anniversary. Courtesy Roberto’s Taco Store; LLC

A Mexican meals trailblazer — exported overseas

Roberto’s Taco Store has additionally been acknowledged for introducing the California burrito, an merchandise that features french fries, carne asada, guacamole, pico de gallo and cheese. The coveted merchandise has extensively grow to be a menu staple in Mexican eating places within the area. However thriller nonetheless stays as to who launched the merchandise as neither Reynaldo or Jose take credit score on behalf of their household.

“I gained’t take credit score for that. I do know we began a rolled taco; we began the carne asada burrito. We began a bunch of stuff however the California burrito, I don’t keep in mind at what age that got here in,” Reynaldo mentioned.

“California burritos have been invented by my nephews at their eating places. And — a few years handed earlier than we began promoting them. However now it’s certainly one of our primary sellers,” Jose mentioned.

“Who would have ever thought we may promote french fries with carne asada? Again within the late 70s, there was no such factor,” Reynaldo mentioned.

Whereas the household had expanded to Miami between 1999 and 2009, the retailers have been shut down as Reynaldo deemed them too far and out of attain to handle. However Riliberto’s, which is owned by Indian American Dhruve Patel — who’s unrelated to the household and the ranch most Berto’s derive from — is the one recognized Berto’s chain to have eating places in India and serve masala crunchy tacos, as first reported by the Arizona Each day Star.

Celeb restaurateur, creator and award-winning host Man Fieri featured a Las Vegas Roberto’s Taco Store and deemed the carne asada burrito “the true deal” on the Meals Community present “All-Star Greatest Factor I Ever Ate”. Whereas Fieri has had many carne asada burritos in his lifetime, one thing was completely different about Roberto’s as “it is easy, straight to the purpose,” he mentioned within the episode that aired. Larry Himmel, a humorist and storyteller, even wrote a poem in regards to the store and regularly featured the shop on the CBS-affiliate KFMB-TV.

For Reynaldo, having the store featured on TV reveals and within the information is a giant accomplishment. Nevertheless it’s a reminder that “you may nonetheless come from Mexico and do one thing for your self,” he mentioned. “My dad at all times mentioned ‘all it’s, is tough work.’”

A family picture that includes the late Dolores Robledo, at center, flanked by family.
A household image that features the late Dolores Robledo, at middle, flanked by household.Courtesy Roberto’s Taco Store; LLC

The senior Robledo died in 1999 and Dolores died in 2020. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that though the couple separated, they remained associates and consulted with one another in regards to the retailers. They might arrange a belief for his or her restaurant enterprise and move it alongside to their surviving kids.

“To at the present time, we stock that custom within the sense that, we have a look at ourselves, we need to make our operation higher. We do not actually concentrate an excessive amount of to the competitors. We do our personal factor and we want success to all people,” Jose mentioned.

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