Checo’s Tacos, a brand new Mexican restaurant in Isla Vista (I.V.), opened this month on Oct. 1. Checo’s is located on Trigo Road in I.V., about a ten minute walk from campus. Sergio Ortega, the award-winning Mexican chef and owner, oversaw the opening day marked with free tacos and crowds galore. “Sold out,” he said. “It’s going well so far and we hope more people come by as they get to know us.”
I sat down with Sergio and got to know more about Checo’s and what inspired the restaurant’s menu.
“Checo is short for Sergio, which is my name, but it was also my father’s and my grandfather’s name. So the name is kind of a family tradition. But also Checo like Checo Pérez, the Formula 1 driver,” Sergio said and laughed.
Besides Checo’s Tacos in I.V., Sergio also manages Chato’s Bar and Grill in Santa Ana, California, but having a fast-food restaurant like Checo’s Tacos is a new experience for him. Here, customers order at the counter and immediately get a taco with fillings and toppings of their choice.
“Our specialty, I would say, are the carnitas and the homemade tortillas,” Sergio told The Bottom Line (TBL). The food is inspired by the cuisine from his home state Michoacán in Mexico.
“We make our own tortillas, cook our own beans, make our own salsa. We try to give our food that central Mexican touch — all homemade and with fresh ingredients,” Sergio remarked.
Once they’re more “settled in,” Checo’s Tacos plans to expand the menu, even working to make more vegan and vegetarian options. I asked if the fast-foodconcept is aimed especially at the college students in I.V., since it seems to be very convenient to come by between classes without having to sit and wait for food.
“We want to cater to the student community and the people who work in the different faculties at UC Santa Barbara,” Sergio explained. “In addition to the families that live in the area, we want to attract that community as well.”
Currently, the restaurant’s business hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but they are planning to open a little longer on weekends in the future — which would be great for people who want to get a snack before going to a party at night.
The restaurant sports a practical design. Inside, the chairs and tables are simple in design, an early 2000s pop playlist plays in the background, and the windows are adorned with neon lights. The atmosphere is easygoing and the employees are friendly.
Meanwhile, Checo’s Tacos offers affordable prices for generous amounts of food. For only $10, I ordered an iced tea, a taco with carne asada (grilled beef), and a taco with grilled mushrooms.
My experience at Checo’s Tacos was illuminated by the restaurant’s fresh ingredients, fast service, friendly staff, and affordable prices. I can safely say that I will be enjoying many more meals here in the future.