With colorful walls, tacos and salsa promising to make you sweat, Santi’s Tacos never fails to provide authentic, Mexican flavors.
Santi’s Tacos, a staple for late night cuisine in San Marcos, has upgraded from their Mexican flagged food truck to a restaurant at 201 S LBJ Dr. After two years of working the food truck, owners Yvette Chavarria and husband Irving Galvan are proud to have opened their restaurant’s doors last month.
Sleeping five hours a night and pouring their hearts into recipes has lead to the business’ success and growth, from food truck to restaurant, in two and a half years.
The business started in 2015 as Chalk of the Town, selling Mexican snacks like fruit cups, raspas and hot Cheetos with cheese. However, Chavarria and Galvan soon realized San Marcos was missing a lot more than Mexican snacks.
Once a month, the couple would visit their hometown in the Rio Grande Valley, indulging in the southern border flavors. Between the Valley and the Mexican border towns, the flavors are electric, yet warm and comforting.
Chavarria grew up watching her grandmother make homemade flour tortillas and charro beans. Galvan grew up around his brother’s taqueria. Eating street tacos and drinking agua frescas was a big part of their home life, so the couple decided to bring Valley flavors to their new home in San Marcos.
The couple was able to learn from their families and replicate the savory foods they serve today, like bistec tacos and tortas.
“I want everything to be good,” Chavarria said. “I want someone to say, ‘there is not a single thing I don’t like from there.’ That’s how we’ve always been and why we are always (in the food truck/restaurant).”
When the food truck was bought in 2016, the couple named it Santi’s after their newborn son, Santiago.
While opening a restaurant was a goal, it happened a lot quicker than they anticipated. Galvan said he knew they would end up opening a restaurant in under five years, but they made it happen two and a half years earlier than expected.
Chavarria and Galvan were on a supply run when they saw equipment being taken out of what was then Yogurt in Love. They called to lease the building and signed the contract the next day. It took a month for them to open.
The Mexican experience and authenticity aspects drove the couple when it came to the brick and mortar restaurant. The outside of the building is white, but the inside is painted with bright colors that would be found in Mexico, and dressed with cultural pieces like chalupa cards.
In August 2018, the couple went to Guadalajara, Mexico, on a culinary expedition to observe the restaurant scene. They fell in love with the environment of every restaurant and wanted to create an atmosphere where the customer felt like they were walking into a fiesta.
The open kitchen allows customers to witness the staff roll out tortillas and cut fresh avocado. It is common for Galvan to sing along to Mexican music and dance in the kitchen. It creates a friendly environment that makes customers smile and laugh.
Opening the restaurant increased the amount of traffic in Santi’s because now, rain or shine, customers can get their taco fix. An increase in customers meant the owners needed more hands on deck; they increased the staff from three to twelve. On weekends, there is a constant rotation of customers at tables.
Students from the Valley especially enjoy Santi’s when homesick. Some customers may visit twice a day, according to Galvan.
Kristen Arrezonzo, radiation therapy sophomore, said she goes to Santi’s up to twice a week. She has formed a relationship with the owners.
“I’m so happy for (Santi’s Tacos) and I feel like their business is going to keep growing because of how good their food is,” Arrezonzo said.
Eventually, the couple hopes to open the food truck again in order to continue being the taco safe haven after a night out. Their next goal is to open another location in a Central Texas town.
Santi’s is popular for Taco Tuesday’s, with a six for $6 taco special. Santi’s is open six days a week from noon to midnight. Keep up with Santi’s by checking it out on Facebook.