Restaurant “El Loco Taco” is a loco local success story

“El Loco Taco” started its journey as a food truck

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Amrick Christian

ENJOYING AUTHENTIC MEXICAN FOOD. Customers enjoy a lunch service at local restaurant “El Loco Taco”. The restaurant managed to grow from a food truck to a physical location.

By Amrick Christian, John Sevier Middle School

The story of “El Loco Taco” is inspiring. The local restaurant rose from humble beginnings as a food truck to one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Kingsport.

Daniel Lopez is the son of the owner of El Loco Taco. He was there every step of the way as the family-owned business became a local success.

“My parents, they are familia from Mexico,” he said. “My dad’s from Jalisco, it’s a small little town. And my mom, she is from Guadalajara, which is also another really nice town. And they came here looking to better their lives, especially for their kids.”

Even at a young age, Lopez remembers their family business.

“I was in elementary school, in fifth grade; I remember we had a truck I had to work in,” he said. “We would go wherever we could to serve people food. Honestly, it was really fun. It was an experience.”

Helping run a family business at a young age taught Lopez many important lessons.

“It would sometimes teach you life lessons,” he said. “Life is hard. Sometimes we got to keep it moving. It was really fun. It taught me a lot of things for sure.”

Another thing that helped to set a path for their business was the strong connection his family had to the food business.

“We have, all my life, been always in the food business,” Lopez said. “My parents were also raised in the food business. My mom had a small little store back in Mexico. Whenever they were little, they had to do stuff. They had to sell tacos, burritos, and a lot of stuff. My dad also grew up doing the same thing. And that was all we know. That’s actually in our blood.”

GRATEFUL FOR SUCCESS. Daniel Lopez helps run “El Loco Taco” with his parents, who started the business. Lopez is grateful for his parents hard work to establish the restaurant as a major Kingsport success. (Amrick Christian)

Starting and running a business, however, can be difficult.

“It takes a lot of mental preparation because this business is not easy,” he said. “You have to be smart with your moves; just be smart with every single move that you make, and make smart decisions.”

In the beginning, Lopez’s parents had nothing but a food truck.

“The food truck was small, it was something nice that we could just have, we could live on for a little bit,” he said. “We started out doing small little things like, you know, trying to grab people’s attention on the side of the road, like with little signs, ‘tacos, come get it’.”

Since a food truck moves around a lot, changing weather could affect the business.

“Sometimes, in the cold, it was really harsh,” Lopez said. “We didn’t have any air conditioning in there. The only one source of warmth we had was literally the grill. That’s what kind of made it warm in there. But in the summer, it was really hot in there, too. It was harsh, but we made it work.”

Thanks to some early success, “El Loco Taco” was able to move into a permanent location.

“The reason we did it is because we’d have a better place, we wouldn’t have to be out there struggling in the cold or in the heat,” he said.

The family also wanted to create an ambience, an atmosphere for people to enjoy their food.

The change from food truck to permanent location transformed the business. The success of “El Loco Taco” increased.

“We never had this many customers down at the food truck, unless, like we went somewhere like a bar or something,” Lopez said. This definitely has changed us a lot and has definitely helped us out. I am extremely grateful for this place and what it has done for me and my family.”

“El Loco Taco” succeeded in Kingsport, even as many other businesses failed.

“Well, some people just don’t know how to run a business or just make good quality food,” Lopez said. “We have the experience of many other places in the past that we’ve worked at. And we know there’s pros and cons about running any type of business.”

The “El Loco Taco” family is especially proud of the quality food they serve.

“The thing I think that sets us apart from other restaurants in Kingsport is the quality of food,” Lopez said. “There’s other restaurants that don’t give the same amount of quality, as in the meats. In my opinion, we have the best quality food, because we try to give everything that we make here 100%. We don’t try to skip you out on anything.”

To Lopez, the success of “El Loco Taco” is a blessing.

“It’s honestly just amazing,” he said. “Whenever I hear stories about how my parents worked up to everything and how they started from nothing to getting something, it’s mind blowing sometimes. To me, it’s mind boggling that all this came from such a small thing.”

Lopez is grateful for his parents and the Kingsport community.

“This restaurant has been nothing but an amazing experience and I would not, and I do not, take it for granted,” he said. “I’m extremely happy with everything that we have and I’m eternally grateful to my parents.”

This story was originally published on The Sequoyah Scribe on May 4, 2022.