It’s a story repeated often under the tin roof awning that serves as Taco Works’ waiting room. Between bites of chicken tacos on an overcast Saturday afternoon, Patti Davis recounted how she was walking along Best Avenue recently when the bright orange trailer caught her eye. She decided to give the taco stand a try, and now she’s hooked. In fact, this was her second consecutive day of digging into the unassuming stand’s renowned hard tacos.
Like countless customers before her, Davis has developed a craving for the Works’ freshly made dishes.
“I love the food, but so far all I’ve had are the tacos,” Davis said while seated under the adjacent outside seating area. “It’s fresh, it’s good, it’s a great value, and it’s better than anything at a fast food restaurant.”
In scenes reminiscent of the classic hamburger joint Hudson’s across town, hungry customers often queue up patiently during the busy lunch and dinner hours. It’s something owner and cook Omar Magdalena never tires of seeing.
“I’m always thinking to have everything fresh, make it every single day,” he said in a thick accent. “My goal is to make authentic Mexican food like you won’t find anywhere else around here.”
Each Taco Works dish, from the crowd-favorite burritos to the fried taquitos to the hamburger-like gordita and open-faced sope, is framed by ample lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Those who like cilantro in their Mexican mix won’t be disappointed either. And the Pico de Gallo hot sauce adds a spicy kick to any meal at no additional cost.
But despite the stand’s mounting list of regulars, the savvy grill master didn’t always have his sights set on becoming a restaurateur.
The 27-year-old, who didn’t speak any English when he moved to the U.S. after becoming legalized as a citizen at the age of 19, originally sought work as a tree planter. But when those positions dried up, he decided to try his hand at making the traditional food he grew up eating with his family just outside of Mexico City.
He and his three siblings had to work to help the family make ends meet, he said, and his job was preparing meals from long-held family recipes, which he would deliver to his parents at work.
So he took a job as cook at the defunct Los Sanchez restaurant. Once the owners of that restaurant decided to sell the place three years ago, Magdalena thought it was time to branch out on his own. With only a push-cart grill he purchased from the owners, a canopy seating area and the determination to provide a fresh take on Coeur d’Alene’s Mexican menu selection, he opened Taco Works a few blocks east on Best Avenue.
At the onset of fall weather a few years ago, he opted for the orange trailer that now permanently sits between businesses. Magdalena now employs his younger brother Daniel and has help from two other part-time staff during the hectic lunch and dinner rushes.
“It’s been growing and growing,” he said about the new and returning customers.
Magdalena gets up early to prepare the 30 to 40 hand-made gorditas, even more burritos, jugs of sauce, and a variety of other items that he’ll serve that day. The more popular plates, such as the gordita, often sell out before he closes the shop.
Toni Gibbs is another enthusiastic customer.
“I come here probably three times a week,” Gibbs said, while holding a weighty chicken burrito in one hand and some tacos for co-workers in the other. “It’s authentic, it’s just good. I feel like it’s a lot healthier than going out and getting a slop of beans or something like that.”
Though the stand doesn’t have a Web site, it has a few online followers who’ve posted their unabashed reviews.
“The tacos are to die for,” writes Hayden’s Kasey K. in a five-star assessment. Magdalena said the support from his customers has allowed him a life he never thought possible just a few years ago. “It’s exciting and I’m happy because we’re busy and everything,” he said. “People like the food and I like what I do.”