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10 Questions With ... Monica Núñez, co-owner of El Taco Loco

el taco loco

Monica Núñez makes fish tacos during the lunch hour at El Taco Loco on West Yakima Avenue in Yakima, Wash., Monday, March 12, 2018. Núñez and her husband Juan Espina bought the restaurant about two years ago and also operate a taco truck called Taqueria Nayitas. (SHAWN GUST/Yakima Herald-Republic)

YAKIMA, Wash. -- They run our favorite restaurants, prepare and serve the food and drinks we love and know what coffee we want before we say a single word.

Restaurant owners and managers, servers, chefs, cooks, bartenders and baristas throughout the Yakima Valley help us start and end our days and make life that much better in all the hours between. So we’re highlighting them in SCENE with 10 Questions With ..., a feature where we can help introduce them to the community.

Nominate your favorite food service and coffee industry folks by emailing scene@yakimaherald.com with the words “10 Questions With” in the subject line.

Juan Espina and Monica Núñez bought El Taco Loco at 19 W. Yakima Ave. about two years ago.

Since then, the husband and wife team have been serving up a blend of authentic Mexican options for their Yakima Valley customers every weekday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition to the restaurant, the couple has owned and operated a food truck — Taqueria Nayitas — for the past four years.

With only a slight language barrier between us, one of their employees, Cristina Ortega, offered up her interpreting services for an interview with Núñez, who smiled while answering my questions before asking me if I wanted anything from the menu.

Of course, I did.

■ Hometown? Mexico City, Mexico

■ Favorite dish? The chilaquiles. It’s a fried tortilla cut up into chips and topped with either red or green chili sauce — Núñez prefers the green — and covered with cheese, sour cream and chicken.

■ Favorite restaurant? Núñez laughed before replying: “El Taco Loco.”

■ If you weren’t working here, what job would you do? Since she likes cooking so much, probably working in a different restaurant.

■ What do you do in your spare time? “Spending time with my children,” Núñez said. The couple has a 15-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. They enjoy going out for walks and eating ice cream.

■ Most unusual request? “This guy came in the other day and asked for an order of enchiladas with a side order of tortillas. It was kind of weird. The enchilada already has tortillas. He wanted to put the tortilla around the enchilada.” Another woman recently came in to order a burrito without the wrap — an inside-out burrito — which Núñez thought was strange.

■ Best-kept secret? The Valley Ford salad, which they just call the “VF Salad.” It has chips on the bottom, followed by lettuce, tomato, avocado, grilled chicken and Mexican cheese. It’s topped with a chipotle dressing and some customers add black beans to it, Núñez said.

■ Most popular offering? Their four mini tacos, which she said are like street tacos. Their burritos, enchiladas and fish tacos also are so popular that most people stick with them even when the eatery offers specials for the day.

■ Most devoted regulars? Business employees who work above them and nearby, especially those from Virginia Mason Memorial hospital’s business services and those from the Department of Labor & Industries.

“They’re here every day,” she said.

■ Why would you recommend El Taco Loco? “We make our food with love and care, and we always treat everybody like family when they come so they always feel comfortable,” Núñez said. “We actually know everybody by name here.”

Desk phone: (509) 759-7853

moliver@yakimaherald.com

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