Delicious tacos propel NJ family from home kitchen to restaurant during pandemic
WOODLAND PARK, N.J. – When Alex Lopez speaks of birria tacos as the specialty of the “house” at Tacos-is-Life-NJ restaurant in Woodland Park, New Jersey, she means that literally. When the pandemic struck two years ago, family bonding around the love of cooking evolved into the only way to survive.
“During the pandemic we lost our jobs, some of us got laid off,” Lopez said. “So we had developed something so that we all financially could pay our mortgage.”
So the family started selling tacos from their house to neighbors. Word of mouth spread so much that in three months they bought a food truck and started showing up across the tristate area.
“We started traveling to New York, birthday parties, Sussex County, any events, any farmers markets that we were able and allowed to go to,” Lopez said.
They were an instant hit with residents like Ahmed Elbahbouhi and his family. Ahmed recalled that they checked out the food truck at Pennington Park in Paterson.
“Since then we fell in love,” he said. “We fell in love with birria tacos, we fell in love with their energy.”
The family saved their proceeds and pooled their funds to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Jackson Avenue in October. It remains a family affair: Alex’s mother Yolanda runs the kitchen, her sister Jessica is a lead cook, and Jessica’s husband, Isaac, runs the front counter.
The menu is authentically Mexican from the east-central region of the country, where the family came from. The recipes are passed down generationally and the family looks forward to sharing them with the Garden State and beyond.