If you visit one of the three new De Leon’s Taco & Bar locations in Spokane, you can eat a Holy Taco and sip one of more than 50 types of tequila while watching a Zags game on one of several large-screen televisions.
The Holy Taco, which can be ordered by itself for $3.25 or in a combo with rice and beans for $5 more, is marinated skirt steak, cilantro and onions in a corn tortilla. “The Holy Taco is one of our most popular,” said owner Sergio De Leon. “It was invented by one of my chefs, Jesus. I told him, ‘We’re going to name it after you.’ ”
Sergio and his wife, Mayra, are known for making their own chips and other fresh Mexican food at De Leon Foods for the past 13 years. This isn’t the first time the couple has ventured into the restaurant business. They had a restaurant at Lincoln and Riverside in downtown Spokane for six years, but it struggled.
“Some of it was bar food, hamburgers and pizzas, then we tried the Mexican food,” De Leon said. “We learned from our mistakes.”
The De Leon’s Taco & Bar locations focus on what they do best. They make the chips, salsa and tortillas they serve. You won’t find pizza or hamburgers on the menu this time. “We didn’t have the concept like this,” said Mayra De Leon of their previous restaurant.
Sergio De Leon said tacos and tequila seemed like a natural combination. One of the tequilas on the menu is $33 per shot. “It’s good,” he said of the top-shelf Herradura Seleccion Suprema. “It’s a sipping tequila. You don’t shoot this one.”
But there also are plenty of other cheaper tequilas available, and, with more than 50 on the menu, there’s bound to be something that appeals to everyone. “A lot of people have different likes,” he said. “There’s different price points. Some people like a really good tequila, and some like it simple.”
Those who want a quick bite can easily order one or two tacos by themselves. Street tacos are $3 each, and Guidsado tacos, featuring meats stewed in broth, are $2.75. Sampler plates are available for those who want to try several types of tacos.
And if you have a small group, you can order the Taco Boat, a selection of 10 tacos that comes with house-made habanero and tomatillo sauces, along with sauce made from spicy Arbol peppers.
There also are enchilada, tamale, chimichanga and carne asada combination plates on the menu, plus taco salad and a fajita bowl. If you’d like to try several types of tequila in one trip, you can buy a flight that features four types.
The De Leons’ son was in charge of writing the menu descriptions, and he had a bit of fun with the job. Mayra’s Margarita is described as “as sweet as the boss lady herself,” and the description for the agave drop martini declares, “It’s blue, which compliments your eyes.”
The Rebel Fries appetizer, topped with carne asada, melted cheese, pico de gallo and salsa, is “not exactly grandma’s recipe, but it’s pretty damn good bar food.”
The first De Leon’s Taco & Bar opened at 10208 N. Division St. in 2017, and a second location followed at 2718 E. 57th Ave. in 2018. The latest, at 1801 N. Hamilton St., opened in early May.
The third location, which is just down the road from Gonzaga University, was the last to open because the building needed extensive renovation. “We wanted this because the college is nearby,” Sergio De Leon said. “It was a big mess. We tore everything down.”
The interior was gutted. The kitchen equipment is all new, as are the plumbing, wiring and windows. “It’s a new building, actually,” said Mayra De Leon.
During the renovation, a spacious patio was added. The nearly yearlong renovation delayed the opening of the restaurant, but Sergio De Leon said he doesn’t regret making the improvements. “Since we bought the building, we thought we’d do it right the first time,” he said.
De Leon said the restaurants are doing well. “It’s something good,” he said. “There’s a lot of Mexican restaurants. When they come to us, they can have a few tacos and a beer. The other restaurants focus on big platters.”
The three restaurants also don’t feature much in the way of traditional Mexican décor, and that was intentional. “We wanted a different look to it,” De Leon said. “If you walk into our restaurant, it’s a little bit different. We’re concentrating more on real Mexican food than on a more traditional look.”
Part of the secret to their success is that all their locations are run by family members. Even then, every time Mayra De Leon visits one of the restaurants, she heads directly to the kitchen.
She wants to make certain that everything is perfect, Sergio De Leon said. “A lot of these recipes are family recipes, and we want to make sure they come out right.”
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