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Birria in The Trunk ~ The Improbable Rise of Teddy’s Red Tacos

12:50 AM PDT on August 14, 2018

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]eddy Vazquez was driving his Uber vehicle one night a little more than a year ago. The car was filled with a delicious aroma of roasted chiles and marinated chunks of slow-cooked beef. Vazquez’s passenger couldn’t take it anymore. He had to know what the smell was. It was birria, and it was all part of Vazquez’s business plan.

“I would put it all in the trunk and let the car smell up like birria so that people would ask me what that smell was,” Vazquez told L.A. Taco. “And then I would offer my taco services.”

Vazquez’s passenger that night happened to own a bar in Long Beach and he was so impressed by the birria, he offered to let Vazquez set up a table outside the bar to sell it. That’s how Teddy’s Red Tacos was born.

The South Central taco truck has been recognized as one of the best new taco joints in town by fans and food sites. Vazquez has even appeared via telephone On Air with Ryan Seacrest, where Ryan introduced him as “a five-star dining experience on the train tracks.”

Next month, Teddy's is opening its first brick and mortar restaurant in Pico Rivera. "I was just over there finalizing everything, menus and plates and everything," Vazquez told L.A. Taco. "You're the only person I've told. Only my mamá knows about it."

Vazquez explained that new restaurant is part of a major goal to create "a family oriented environment for people in the community."

Teddy's Red Tacos only sells birria and birria things. Birria tacos. Birria quesadillas. Birria mulitas.

The birria is de res instead of the more commonly known goat birria. Birria de res is relatively rare in Southern California but it's caught on in the past few years thanks to the success of places like Burritos La Palma.

'People were offering me drugs for tacos.'

Teddy’s has built a large loyal following and is known as that “birria place by the tracks.” The birria is so good you’re going to want to take a plate to your mamá. But Vazquez’s background as a marketer has a lot to do with the success as well.

“People told me I was crazy to want to put my truck by the train tracks,” he explained. “But I had this vision. I wanted to stand out.”

Vazquez also personally turned Teddy’s Red Tacos into a social media star, ramping up past 18,000 Instagram followers, including celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, who always knows what’s up when it comes to tacos in L.A.

The affable Vazquez learned marketing and business working as an importer and exporter between companies in the U.S. and Mexico. He learned how to make birria in Tijuana working at Birrieria el Paisa, a respected local taco cart there.

But the path wasn’t always smooth sailing. “I remember this one night outside the club, I witnessed this terrible fight,” Vazquez recalled. “I just knew I had to get out of there. People were offering me drugs for tacos.”

Vazquez went from a little plastic table outside the club to a taco cart and found himself at odds with the city’s street vendor policies. He stopped publicly advertising his location at one point for fear of being shut down yet again.

But the birria was too good. It needed a permanent home. For that, Vazquez chose the inoperable rails on Slauson off Central, where he parked his first taco truck last July. He set up plastic tables and metal folding chairs, and the so called “five star” spot by the tracks hasn’t stopped moving since. 

He's built a massive catering business too, often catering gigs for Telemundo and major local law enforcement events. And he's basically taken over the Slauson train tracks between Paloma and Central.

"If you're hungry enough and believe in yourself, there's nothing you can't accomplish," Vazquez explained.

After the new restaurant, Vazquez plans on expanding the taco truck empire.

"I'm a firm believer in God and in an attitude of gratitude. It's gotten me this far and I want to keep building," he said. "And we are going to build it big for the community.”

RELATED: Ten New Tacos You Need to Try in 2018

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