By CAMILLE PHILLIPS
Thirteen years ago, Pedro Guillen moved to Columbia from Kansas and began waiting tables at El Maguey. He dreamed of opening his own restaurant and being his own boss. After years of planning and saving, he and his family opened Taquería Guadalajara last August at 1802 Paris Road, where Dino’s Steakhouse used to be.
“This was a dream for us,” Guillen said. “It was a dream for the whole family to have our own jobs. Sometimes you work for someone else and they make all the money. I saved money for 10 years to do something like this.”
Guillen’s father, Pedro Flores, runs the restaurant with Guillen and his two brothers, Rodrigo and Pepe Guillen. “We all help — the three brothers, my sister-in-law, sometimes the kids,” Guillen said.
As its name implies, the signature dish of the restaurant is tacos for $1.85 each. Alongside the more common steak, chicken, shrimp, fish and pork (pastor and barbacoa) tacos, Taquería Guadalajara also offers nopales (cactus), chorizo (sausage), lengua (tongue), tripa (liver), birri (goat), and chicharrones (pork skin) tacos — 12 kinds in total.
On a recent Wednesday, April 6, Clayton Barber ordered steak tacos at Taqueria Guadalajara. Barber, who called the tacos “the bomb” and their price “genius,” liked the tacos so much he plans to return at least twice a week for the final three weeks he is in Columbia.
The Capturing CoMo blog did a review of Taquería Guadalajara in August, soon followed by a taco throwdown comparing the restaurant with Carlito’s and La Siesta. Taquería Guadalajara was declared the winner, largely because of the homemade tortillas.
During the winter, they had to stop serving homemade tortillas because Guillen’s mother, who makes the tortillas, went to Mexico. They hope to start offering them again soon, because they are such a big draw for customers, Guillen said.
“Right now it’s picking up a little bit, but we struggled with the long winter,” Guillen said. “The first two months, it (business) was very good, but after Thanksgiving it went down.”
Everything from the name of the restaurant to the type of beans they serve comes down to roots. Their mother served white beans to their family when they were growing up, so the Guillen brothers serve it in their restaurant today instead of the usual black or red.
Taquería Guadalajara is named after the capital city of Jalisco, the state in Mexico in which the family originated. “Guadalajara is like the heart of Mexico,” Guillen said. “It represents culture, tradition, mariachi. They keep the culture very alive there.”
Just like the culture in Guadalajara, the Guillen familys’ dream of having its restaurant is still very much alive. But to stay that way, business needs to pick up soon.
“We’re still here open for business, hoping the spring weather brings more people,” Guillen said.