Flavors of Home Inspires this Cedar Falls Business

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By Chuy Renteria, Hola Iowa

When Maribel Islas started Tacoz California in Cedar Falls, IA she was focused on authenticity. “I decided to open my own place with my two daughters Vanessa and Joanna in Iowa (specifically in the Cedar Valley) because there was a lack of real authentic Mexican restaurants. Most of the places we would try were very Americanized.”

It wasn’t easy changing minds about what was truly Mexican. “The biggest challenge was changing the mindset of what authentic Mexican food is.” Says Islas. “When we first opened, a lot of customers were expecting crunchy tacos with lettuce and yellow shredded cheese.” This Americanized iteration of “Mexican” cuisine was absent from the journey that eventually landed Islas in Iowa. “I was born in Zacatecas Mexico, my family migrated to California when I was only three years old. I lived most of my life on the central coast of California in a city called Salinas. My daughters and I moved to Iowa about 13 years ago to be closer to our family.” Growing up with and appreciation for the flavors of her birthplace, Islas wanted that for her community. When she found that she had to travel far to find it, she decided to create a place closer to her new home.

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Staying true to your principles in a new place unfamiliar or indifferent to those principles is a large task for anyone. At times it wasn’t an easy road for Islas as she created Tacoz California. That didn’t deter this entrepreneur’s vision. She continued to stay true to herself and, “with time a lot of our customers have learned to love our birria!” She maintained the simple perfection of tacos, “with asada, al pastor, chorizo, lengua with cilantro, onion, limes, and homemade salsas,” and added, “sopes, huaraches, flautas, burritos, etc..,” prepared as they were in her childhood home. “I come from a big Mexican traditional family, we have adopted the American ways without losing our essence. My Latina heritage is a symbol of culture, family, flavor, colors, and love! I do everything in business exactly that way. Like my Mexican mom taught me: Con el corazón!”

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