In 1997, the Tacos Chalito truck rolled into town, and it’s been here ever since.

The Garcia family, which includes owners Elias and Maria, and brothers Christian and Cesar, have poured their heart, soul, and hard work into the business on Main Street.

Tacos Chalito is truly a family business, with everyone helping prep, cook, and clean the restaurant.

“I actually love it. I learn from them every day, both in the way of running the business and life in general,” Christian, 32, said about working with his parents.

Even Christian’s 10-year-old daughter, Briana, likes to help out during the summertime, cleaning off tables and showing people where to get their sodas in the restaurant. She’s usually the first one up in the morning, Christian said. She saves all of her tips so she can buy what she wants when the fair comes into town.

Roots

The Garcias are from Michoacán, Mexico, and later made their way to Stockton, Calif., before moving to Ellensburg over 20 years ago. Christian was only 11 when they landed in the states.

Elias and Maria were farm workers, spending their lives picking fruit throughout California. Most of their family was in California and so was most of their work.

“I’ve been a few times, checked it out, it’s hard work,” Christian said about the fields. “It’s definitely hard work. There are people who are good at it, they love it.”

An uncle of Christian’s lived in Moses Lake and owned a taco truck. The family decided to move up to Ellensburg and start a business here because the city looked like a good place to live.

“Era un pueblo bonito,” he said — Ellensburg was a beautiful town.

Christian said his dad, Elias, is the entrepreneur of the family.

“It’s something he’s had since he was young,” he said. “He likes to make his own things, always tries to find a different way to make your business better.”

Super burritos

Tacos Chalito is a hit with Central’s college students and high schoolers, who enjoy the $5 super burritos. There are also other customers who are regulars.

“You can definitely see the difference to when the students are here to when they’re not,” Christian said. “We’ve been blessed to have our nice local people who always come through so it really doesn’t affect us much.”

The taco truck sees a lot of tourists who drive through on their way to the Gorge for concerts. Customers often use Yelp to find their way to the truck. Christian said he also has customers who drive several times a week from Spokane to Seattle for work, and they always stop by for food.

The business boasts two trucks: one that’s stationary on Main Street and another that’s used for catering purposes.

The day for Tacos Chalito starts around 6 a.m., with meal prepping. They chop onions, cilantro, and tomatoes, trying to make everything as fresh as possible.

“My brother and I were raised in the kitchen, so we do a little bit of everything, we know our way around,” Christian said.

He said he grew up watching his aunt, mother and grandmother cooking in the kitchen, which sparked his interest in cooking. Christian eventually wants to go to culinary school after his four kids have grown up.

A supportive community

Garcia recalled the immigration raids that happened in early 2011, and how the community came together. He said city council members and law enforcement tried to explain what was happening in the community.

“That’s one of the beautiful things about Ellensburg, is that they really do help out the community,” he said. “It affected a lot of people from the community, good friends that were taken away, I think it affects everybody.”

He noticed people were scared to come out of their houses and some didn’t even want to go shopping anymore.

“It’s kind of tough, we don’t really have anybody to represent us in the community,” he said.

When the family first got to Ellensburg in the ‘90s, Garcia said there were a lot of ignorant people around and there was a lot of racism.

Over the years, he said, it’s gotten a lot better.

At the end of the day Christian enjoys living in the town, and hopes to expand the business into an indoor restaurant. There’s no talk of ever selling the taco truck.

“It started as a family business; we’re going to keep it a family business,” Garcia said.

Comments

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.