What can be said of Tasty Tacos that hasn't been said before? An American success story, Richard and Antonia Mosqueda came to Des Moines from Fort Madison and with a $500 loan opened up their first restaurant in 1961 on Easton Boulevard. From there they ended up at their now well-known location on E. Grand, and have since blossomed into a successful chain with five locations around the metro.
I first sank my teeth into their comforting fare when they operated a little spot downtown on the corner of Tenth & Grand in the Investment Building, formerly the home of AIB College of Business. For a couple of years in the late 80s I ate there on an almost daily basis.
Moving to the Highland Park neighborhood in the 90s afforded me the luxury of enjoying Tasty Tacos on my home turf from the white-painted house they occupied on the corner E. Euclid & Bowdoin.
Both of these locations and the restaurant at Douglas & 38th have passed into the ether. But the chain has been successful in upgrading their other restaurants in Des Moines, as well as opening a strip mall location off 86th & Hickman, and more recently a new standalone restaurant in Ankeny.
From its humble beginnings, good food, hard work, and reinvestment in capital properties have paid off for the Mosqueda family. The family motto – “Nada Es Imposible” – sums it up. Nothing is impossible.
Tasty Tacos wouldn't be Tasty Tacos if not for their most popular item, the deep fried taco. Essentially a variation of the empanada, a wheat flour dough is folded into a pocket and stuffed with your choice of filling: refried beans, chicken, beef steak, pork, or the 'Original' – seasoned ground beef and beans. The dough is pinched shut, deep-fried until golden and puffy, pried open and finished with shredded cheddar cheese and lettuce. The end product sports a shell that is superbly soft with a little chew, but also exhibits a lightly crisp exterior.
To enjoy one for the very first time is an epiphany. The one thing that takes the taco to another level is Tasty Taco's table salsa: a zippy purée with tomato and jalapeño being most prominent. For me the taco exists as a salsa delivery system. I can nearly consume a entire squeeze bottle of salsa with just two tacos. With taco in my left hand and salsa bottle in the right, it's squirt, bite, squirt, bite, repeat as needed.
Other items of note on the menu include hard corn shell tacos, enchiladas, and burritos, all available with the same array of fillings as the flour taco. Chili burritos are an added feature.
Enchiladas come enrobed in a melted veil of cheddar cheese with a few tortilla chips for garnish. If you like cheese, you will enjoy the enchilada. Burritos come wrapped in foil and are something of an underachiever compared to the tacos and enchiladas.
The chili-topped burrito is another matter. Tasty Tacos takes a burrito filled with cheddar and their 'Original' seasoned ground beef and beans, and tops it with homemade chili and even more melty cheddar. The chili is resplendent with tomato and zesty spices, and comes as close to your mama's chili as I gets.
For sides, two in particular stand out. Some of you may remember Tasty Taco's breaded, deep-fried green bell pepper rings. They were delicious! However in the fullness of time they were replaced on the menu with the ubiquitous and more popular jalapeño and cream cheese popper. My loss.
Decades before the hip oohed-and-aahed over deep-fried tater tots at the High Life Lounge, Tasty Tacos offered this crispy treat – dubbed Tasty Tators – with the added bonus of zesty seasoning. My favorite guilty pleasure is to stuff some Tasty Tators into my puffy taco before proceeding with the ritual mass consumption of salsa.
Thanks for fifty-one years of great food. “Nada Es Imposible.”