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This Taquero From Puebla Always Dreamed of Serving His TJ-Style Tacos Near The Happiest Place on Earth, and It Just Came True

taquero-holding-tacos

taco is a wish your heart makes...” 

Although that is not exactly how the classic Cinderella “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” song goes, it might as well be because the dream-making magic of the happiest place on earth was felt this past weekend at a taquería two miles down from Disneyland.

For Daniel Alonso, owner of Taquería El Poblano in Compton, his dream of one day serving his famous tacos estilo Tijuana near Disneyland has been seven years in the making. And after two restaurant openings in Compton and several sacrifices, he realized his dream as he opened his third location in Anaheim almost a week ago. 

“Disney is like that one place everyone knows, and people from all over the world go there and to me being able to sell my tacos so close is really un sueño echo realidad (a dream come true,)” said Alonso. “Ahora cuando salga la gente de Disneyland y tengan hambre, aquí vamos a estar para servirles.” “Now, when people come out of Disneyland hungry, we’ll be here to serve them.”

TJ-style tacos at Taquería El Poblano's new location in Anaheim. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
TJ-style tacos at Taquería El Poblano's new location in Anaheim.

Along with Disneyland being just minutes away, the taquería is also conveniently located near the Angels Stadium and the Honda Center—assuring him a steady supply of post-amusement park starving customers. The taquero said the new location is more spacious, and like his other taquerías, the vibe inside is the same. The white walls are lined with a strip of red and white tile that runs through the counter in a checkered pattern, a pattern seen around Tijuana’s classic taquerías like Tacos E Franc and El Poblano. 

And like any good taco spot, the smell of the meat grilling lures you in. 

The 36-year-old taquero said a lot of work has gone into growing his business, saying he feels it’s in part thanks to his work ethic. Something that was instilled in him in Coatzingo, Puebla, where he grew up. The Poblano is so proud of his roots that he has a different TikTok where aside from uploading funny memes, he shares videos that his family back home sends him, of them working in el campo (the fields.) He credits his humble beginnings for the ambition and drive he’s had towards making sure his family has a better future.

Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
In order to truly be asada, it must be mesquite grilled. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Handmade tortillas are also essential for TJ-style tacos. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

“Como todos,( like everyone) who come here, I came to work. My life has always been about working,” he said as he placed a crispy and cheesy birria taco on a plate. “Haci creci en mi pueblo; mis padres me enseñaron a trabajar duro.” “That’s how I grew up in my hometown. My parents taught me to work hard.”

Bringing with him the ganas to succeed, he moved from Puebla to TJ in late 2000. That’s where he was given his first job as a taquero, and it’s where he learned how to perfect the classic TJ style taco: a warm handmade tortilla, carne asada al carbón, or adobada (al pastor), topped with salsa, guacamole, and of course cilantro and onions. It’s the perfect bite, smokey with a spiciness that is instantly soothed by the creamy guacamole. The taco is like tasting Tijuana. 

“A lot of people didn’t believe I could make it. They told me I was crazy. Then they said the locations I picked in Compton weren’t good, and so many other negative things, and I just heard them, but I never listened to them, and I’m glad...”

Alonso spent three years in Tijuana working and learning, he calls the city “la escuela de los taqueros, (the school of the taqueros.)” He said he considers TJ to be one of many places where great taqueros are born. 

Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Daniel Alonso working in Tijuana "La Escuela de Los Taqueros" in the 2000s. Photo courtesy of Daniel Alonso.
Archival image

By 2003, Alonso left TJ to come to the city of Compton, where he eventually found a job at a taquería. “I believe it was Tacos El Unico. I worked there for ten years,” he said in Español. Eventually, the taquero ventured out and started his own taco stand. 

“My family was growing, and I knew I needed to pursue something new and fast because I wasn’t making enough money anymore,” he said. “So I decided to take a risk, and I started street vending on the weekends for about two years selling birria and my TJ-style tacos.”

After two years of having issues with the city and many sleepless nights, he decided to begin looking for a place to open a restaurant, a decision that some around him questioned.

“A lot of people didn’t believe I could make it. They told me I was crazy. Then they said the locations I picked in Compton weren’t good, and so many other negative things, and I just heard them, but I never listened to them, and I’m glad,” he said. “I’ve always had that mentality that as long as we have good health, everything else will come in time.” 

Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Daniel Alonso and his wife working at his original Compton location. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Although they had their concerns, he said his family was his main source of support. He credits and praises his wife for the opening of his first restaurant in 2016. “She helped me with the remainder of the money that I needed to purchase our first location,” he said. Eventually, his wife quit her job at a factory where she assembled airplane parts and became a taquera with her husband. 

“The first year, we were so lost because I had no idea what I got myself into, but thankfully we’ve been doing good,” Alonso said. “I told my wife not to worry that everything was going to be okay, and the opening this past week, especially at that location, is a testament to that.”

The taquero, who has 18 years of selling tacos, said if there’s anything people can take from his story is to not give up on their dreams. 

The taquero dedicates the grand opening near Disneyland to his wife, kids, and customers who have been a great deal of support at all three of his locations. But a special dedication was made to his mother and father. 

“A mis padres también (to my parents too), because without them I wouldn’t be here. I promised I’d come here to work, and I’d like to think that they are proud of everything I have accomplished.” He said, trying to hold back tears. “I didn’t get to say goodbye to them when they left this world, but I understand that’s part of the sacrifice of pursuing a dream here.”

When asked how he celebrated the opening of his third location on State College Boulevard in Anaheim, he said there was only one way he’d celebrate. “Pues trabajando (well working),” he said, laughing. Since the opening, he has been splitting his time at the new location, meeting and greeting new and old customers, and after, driving back home to Compton to check on his other two locations. To him, quality is a top priority. He wants to make sure that the taco you taste in Compton is the same taco you taste in Anaheim. 

The taquero, who has 18 years of selling tacos, said if there’s anything people can take from his story is to not give up on their dreams. 

“Don’t throw in the towel when things get hard. If you have a dream, work for it and fight for it,” he said. “Don’t give up because once you achieve one dream, you realize you can do anything as long as you are determined.”

1210 S State College Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92805

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