Austin is a city of taco lovers. It's also a city of highly educated and even more highly opinionated foodies. So, it's a big deal when you're named as the highest-rated taqueria in town. Recently added to the Eater 38, listed as the Can't-Miss Street Cart by Bon Appetit in October, and rated the only Austin taco spot on Yelp with five stars, Veracruz All Natural celebrates its five-year anniversary this year.
As one loyal Yelper so eloquently stated, "Veracruz is veragood."
Founder and co-owner Reyna Vazquez sat down with Eater to chat about the last five years and her plans for the future. The young taco-preneur just opened her second trailer on Sixth Street and has dreams of a brick-and-mortar in the (hopefully very) near future.
How did you get your start? What were you doing in Austin before you decided to open the trailer?
Reyna Vazquez: I was working as a waitress. I always liked the idea of being my own boss. My mom used to have a restaurant in Veracruz, and I used to help her a lot. I owe her a lot. All the recipes are hers. She still helps me with the business. My whole family lives here in Austin and helps me. They always helped me and supported me from the start. They always supported the idea.
When did you and your family first move to Austin from Veracruz? What brought you here?
Reyna Vazquez: I was almost 17 when we first moved here. Right now I'm 31. We just like to try something new. My father always liked to move and go to different places. He picked Austin, and it's just great. I love Austin.
I don't think I want to move ever. I love it here so much.
Austin has changed a lot since you first moved here though. Even five years ago, the trailer and food truck scene was a lot smaller than it is today, right?
Reyna Vazquez: It was nothing compared to now. Now they're all on every corner! There were only a few when we first opened.
What were some of the challenges when you first opened?
Reyna Vazquez: When I decided to open the business, it was a smaller trailer, so it was a challenge to work in there because it was so small. But little by little we saved money to buy a bigger one. We definitely didn't have enough space.
What inspired you to go out on your own?
Reyna Vazquez: I just decided one day, I'm not going to work anymore. I'm going to build this business. I didn't even have enough money then.
How did you make it work?
Reyna Vazquez: I don't know. I just did. I just thought, "I'm going to do it anyway." For the first two or three years we didn't have money for ourselves. We were always investing the money back into the business, so it was very hard.
So what do you think has differentiated you from the rest of the tacos in town? There's a lot of competition out there.
Reyna Vazquez: I think it is our persistence. Even when we didn't have enough, from the beginning, we always cook everything fresh. We try to keep the quality of the food up, even since we started. We've kept the same recipes, and we always try to find the good ingredients, the freshest.
We buy everything local. I just love to buy everything local and support small business. I'm very picky. We work with many different farms. Some places offer good certain vegetables that I like or certain fruits.
You sound so passionate about what you do. What are some of your favorite parts about this work?
Reyna Vazquez: I really like what I do. I really enjoy to cook. I get very excited still.
Definitely cooking is my favorite. My sister is my partner, and she really likes to be in front. My older sister, Maritza.
I always like to be there and check that everything is OK. I always want to be around. I like to be around because this is my baby. I don't want to leave here if anything might happen. But sometimes I like just being outside talking to my customers and knowing my customers.
That's very close quarters to be working with family. No sibling rivalry? How has it been working with her?
Reyna Vazquez: I invited my sister to be my partner because it was a lot of work. So I was like, I need help. We get along well. She's my best friend.
We used to work together before as waitresses at a Mexican restaurant, Taqueria Chapala. It's nearby. We worked there since we moved to Austin.
What are you plans for the future?
Reyna Vazquez: We just opened another location on 6th a few months ago. Hopefully in the future we'll be able to open a restaurant. Everyone is always asking, "When are you opening one?!"
Probably in a year. I want to keep it simple. The only problem we have with the trailer is the weather. When it's really cold or really hot, it effects us.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about opening a trailer now?
Reyna Vazquez: I think it would be that everything that you do you have to do it with love and offer the best you can to have success. Some businesses start good but then they change if they try to do it fast or the easy way.
Here sometimes there is a 40-minute wait, but people are like "I don't care. I will wait 40 minutes because it's worth it." Because they know that we cook everything fresh.
Where do you normally eat in Austin?
Reyna Vazquez: I really like Thai food and Chinese food. I like to try new restaurants and support local businesses. Right now my favorite thai food is a truck on 6th. It's called Coat & Thai. It's really good.
But I really like to cook at home when I'm not here. Have a meal at home and sit down and relax.
What are you favorite things to cook at home?
Reyna Vazquez: I like chiles rellenos. I'm not eating red meat right now, so I'm trying to eat a lot of veggies. I love mole. Green mole with vegetables.
Are those the types of dishes you'll have at your restaurant?
Reyna Vazquez: Yeah! I've been thinking about it and building the concept and my menu. The menu is the most important part.
I have a lot of recipes, but I really want a simple menu, so I have to pick which will work. It'll be different from the trailer…more like full plates. I want to introduce the different food we serve in Veracruz. Not only tacos, but something like chiles rellenos, moles and cochinita pibil. Real Mexican enchiladas.
Ha. Real Mexican enchiladas. What are your thoughts on Tex-Mex food?
Reyna Vazquez: [laughs] I really don't like Tex-Mex too much. I'm just used to eating real authentic food. It's OK to eat it, but I prefer eating more authentic Mexican food.
Any recommendations for favorite authentic Mexican in Austin?
Reyna Vazquez: Fonda San Miguel. It's really good. Azul Tequila. It's another good place to eat. They serve authentic. Kind of Oaxaca and Veracruz style. I order either Mole Pipian with pepitas (pumpkin seeds). It's really good. It can be either green or red. Also chiles rellenos. They have homemade tortillas. I like those types of places.