Juan Carlos Romero, original chef and co-founder of acclaimed Italian Market taqueria Los Taquitos de Puebla, has found a new home for his famous tacos al pastor.
This week marks the grand opening of Philly Tacos at 2011 Reed St. in Point Breeze. The space, formerly home to a brunch spot called Breezy’s Cafe, is just off Point Breeze Avenue and a few blocks south of Mattei Family Pizza and American Sardine Bar.
Philly Tacos selection is just as varied and interesting as Romero’s previous venture. Tacos can be ordered with slow-cooked pork, short ribs, chorizo, vegetables or chicken, sure, but also come filled with beef eyes, cheeks or mouth.
In addition to the 33 listed taco options, Romero’s menu also includes cemitas (avocado-layered sandwiches on Sarcone’s rolls), “cowboy beans” stew, quesadillas, queso fundidos, chips and salsas, the ham-stuffed tortilla sandwiches known as sincronizadas and the layered platters of meat, cheese and veg called alambres. On Saturdays, there will be specials of lamb barbacoa. A trio of tacos starts at $7 (regular al pastor) and prices top out at $18, for three loaded with grilled skirt steak and fixings.
“We also have gluten free and vegetarian options,” Romero said. He’s tuned into modern diners’ tastes thanks to his regular appearances at Headhouse Market (he’s there every Sunday) and at Philly Night Markets (“I’ve been to every one”).
To preclude confusion: Yes, there is still a shop on Ninth Street operating with the Los Taquitos de Puebla name.
Two or so years ago, Romero said, he and his partner in the original shop — which was raved about by the Inquirer’s Craig LaBan and garnered two Best of Philly awards — split up. That was after they showed up one day to find the locks changed and the restaurant equipment claimed as payment for late rent, according to a Philly Mag report. The space is now home to El Compadre.
“I made a bad decision,” he said. “Business was very tough, so I lost the business.”
Meanwhile, Romero’s partner, who had moved to Delaware, returned to Philly and reopened under the Los Taquitos name in another Ninth Street storefront. “It made a lot of confusion,” Romero said. “People would come in and say, ‘Oh, where is Carlos?’”
He found the Point Breeze location over a year ago, when it was being used as a commissary by a friend. Since she didn’t want to make use of it as an actual restaurant, she encouraged Romero to take over her lease, which he did in November 2016.
He planned to open Philly Tacos there in spring 2017, but the launch was stymied by a misguided accountant, who promised Romero and his wife that he’d handle the process of getting a new tax ID number from the IRS and the subsequent permits from the city, but ended up taking his fee without completing the application processes competently.
After a lot of back and forth over the course of the next six months, during which time he was still paying rent, Romero eventually found a different accountant, who helped him get the documents he needed.
Romero, who immigrated here from Mexico City 15 years ago, is excited about his new spot and its new name.
“My previous business, the name was very hard to pronounce and it was long. Not good marketing,” he said, referencing guidelines he learned in a seminar at Wharton. “So I picked the new name to be short, and I think everyone’s going to remember it.”
There’s a grand opening party set for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 10, with a 30 percent discount on all orders and a complimentary agua fresca or soda. After that, Philly Tacos will be open 3 to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. (Sundays the storefront will be closed so Romero can set up at Headhouse Farmers Market.)