In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Noe Martinez decided to follow his dream and start a small business.
He and his wife, Claudia, sold their home, bought a food truck, named it TacoMania and started selling tacos.
"We were afraid of how things were going. But we just have to be courageous," Claudia Martinez said. "So we decided to go for it and here we are."
After a year and a half of running their food truck in the Herriman area, the Martinezes opened a storefront in Riverton to give their tacos a permanent home.
TacoMania opened on Cinco De Mayo earlier this year, and the owners have since been serving tacos and smiles to hundreds of customers.
Even as several new restaurant chains continue to pop up just over a mile west of TacoMania, as Riverton develops the area around Mountain View Village, the taco shop at 3673 W. 13400 South sees a steady stream of customers. There are often lines of people wanting their Mexican food fix and the seats at the relatively small restaurant get taken — showing there's still an appetite for local fare.
Noe Martinez said he and his wife love to eat out, but they couldn't find a place that was flavorful enough to satisfy them. Having parents from Mexico and Claudia born in Mexico, they've always loved Mexican food.
"We grew up with this food, and we decided to open a restaurant because we didn't really find a place that really satisfied us, as far as taste goes," Noe Martinez said. "It's been a dream, and we felt there was a need here ... according to our friends and neighbors, they had the same sentiment. So we said, 'OK, let's do it.'"
To make their tacos especially flavorful, the Martinezes marinate their high-quality meats for almost 24 hours, and they make homemade creamy salsas to complement the tacos. Noe Martinez said TacoMania also serves brisket tacos, which isn't as common in Utah as it was in Texas where he grew up.
"In our restaurant, we want to give our clientele the same quality of food that I would eat at home," Claudia Martinez said.
Sometimes eating at a restaurant feels like you are just part of an assembly line, but Noe Martinez' favorite comment he gets from customers is when they say the food tastes like they are eating at home.
"It's not only solely about the money. We don't think like that," he said. "It is about thinking about the customer — the person who walks in the building, and making sure they feel comfortable — making sure they feel special."
Locally owned restaurants are able to provide a comforting, home-cooked-meal feeling and taste, which can give them an edge over chain restaurants, Noe Martinez said. But the success of small businesses comes from customers who enjoy the food and care about the restaurant.
"It's not just about the food. For us, TacoMania is a place of refuge," Claudia Martinez said. "We want customers to come in and eat, but we also want them to feel that they are important, valued and loved when they are in our restaurant."
"We strongly believe there is a need — especially nowadays — for everyone to feel that. If we can do that, everything we do is worth it," she said.
Claudia Martinez said lots of blood, sweat and tears goes into running the taqueria, but hearing positive reactions from customers gives her motivation to keep going and enjoy the bumpy ride along the way.
Because of the success TacoMania has seen so far, the Martinezes are thinking about opening another storefront to provide more people with quality tacos and a comforting experience.
"I think what comes out of this is, there is something we can bring to the community through our food, through all this, and that's what we strive for," Noe Martinez said. "Not only to feed bellies, but to feed souls."