With its doors officially open downtown on Fulton Street, Manny’s Tacos strives to be a restaurant like no other, and certainly with a beginning all its own.
The idea of opening a local taco restaurant came over two years ago when Manny, the youngest son of owner Rebecca Martinez, presented the idea, citing that his mother’s tacos were “the bomb.” Now the idea that always sat in the back of Martinez’s mind is becoming a reality.
“I always tell my kids to do what they want. Life is too short to being doing a job you don’t like,” Martinez said.
Thus, she pursued her dream in May of this year, starting work out of the Fulton County Sportsman’s Club kitchen two days a week. After the demand from local factories and businesses grew, she expanded to three days a week and started renting a location downtown.
Yet, after the great support and community engagement, Martinez started to become discouraged at the mounting tasks lying ahead to remodel her rental space. So when the location at 224 N. Fulton Street became available, she couldn’t resist seizing the opportunity.
Besides having the kitchen, storage, and dining facilities needed to open up an actual restaurant, the building holds more significant meaning to its new owner.
“To me, it’s special. It was my first job. I worked here at Sterling’s,” Martinez said.
Even before having this special place to call home and only offering carry-out availability until just recently, Manny’s fanbase has been strong from the start through their Facebook page, word of mouth, and appearance at local community events.
“I was lucky because I had a clientele already. Everybody has been wonderful. People have raved about it. Our customers have been amazing in every way possible,” Martinez said.
One reason for the support should be attributed to the homemade, start from scratch style the kitchen takes pride in. Although customers may have to wait a few extra minutes, Martinez believe it’s part of her niche.
“We make the tortillas here. I roll them out myself, each one. Everything is made fresh to order. Nothing is pre-made. It takes a little bit longer, but you know I’m back there scrambling your eggs,” she said.
While maintaining some of the traditional cuisine of a local Mexican eatery, Martinez hopes the spirit inside will make dining in a distinctive pleasure.
“We want everyone to feel like they’re eating at home, so it’s real informal. We like first names. We like to know who we’re serving. We like to know what they like. I’m always open to suggestions. I’m always open to criticism, because we want people to leave here happy,” Martinez said.
Yet, the menu. quite possibly, stands out even more than the friendly atmosphere. Besides their namesake tacos, Manny’s will offer American cuisine like meatloaf and pork chops. Starting in January, they will also be offering a two month rotation of cultural specials, starting with German, and then Indian.
Although they’ve been open since Black Friday, the official grand opening of Manny’s Tacos will commence on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 11 a.m. Featured will be drawings and contests for the first 10 patrons, special discounts, and possibly some music with a little help from a 92.5 KISS-FM disc jockey, a regular customer.
Martinez, a paralegal by trade, has realized there has been and will continue to be a need for sacrifices to ensure a successful business.
“I’m here all the time. My day starts at 3:30 a.m. Even though I still do my profession three-fourths of the time, I’m giving up an income. I’m giving up early mornings with my children. It’s a sacrifice we all agreed to make.,” she said.
Yet, she’s proud to call it a family effort. All four of her children enjoy helping out and coming in at 7 a.m the weekends to serve where needed.
“I don’t look at this as a total sacrifice, because when I’m back there cooking, I enjoy it,” she said.
While her hours are typically only through lunch, she hopes to be open later soon, once a night staff is hired.
The new location, Martinez hopes, will also give her room to get creative even more. She plans on bringing in a jukebox, and has even had a suggestion for a couch. Yet, she warns that her customers should not expect her to completely “modernize” anytime soon.
“The ultimate goal is to make it welcoming and and get back to what it was, where we communicate, so we get to know each other from our community. I just think it’s time we have a welcoming place where people can talk and try a little bit of everything. I do not have customer wifi for a reason. I want to hear the chatter. I want to hear the talk again,” she said.
There have been upwards of four restaurants in their current location that have all come and gone over the last five years. Some locals have gone as far as to dub it “The Curse on Fulton Street,” but Martinez isn’t worried.
“I really believe that the quality of food, the quality of service, and being involved in your community makes a huge difference in how successful your business is. I’m not worried about it. I truly, truly, truly believe in my community. I do. Whatever it takes, I want to stay,” she said.
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