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As City Tacos in North Park celebrates its remarkable ten-year milestone, it’s more than just a momentous occasion for its founder, Gerry Torres; it’s a reflection of passion, perseverance, and the vibrant community that embraced his culinary vision.

In a candid conversation with Gerry, we delve into his journey from a single neighborhood eatery to the bustling network of eight City Tacos locations. Gerry’s story is not just about business expansion; it’s about staying true to one’s roots, fostering community, and constantly striving for excellence.

Roots of Passion

Gerry embodies the essence of living in the moment, driven by an amazing work ethic and a deep love for both family and food. “I love my employees. I love what I do. I do it with passion every day,” Gerry remarks, encapsulating his approach to life and business.

With a background deeply rooted in the restaurant industry, Gerry’s journey to launch City Tacos was always something he dreamed of but never imagined that it would play out like this. His journey took him back and forth between Mexico City and San Diego. His first dip into the industry was at a sub shop in Oceanside, where at 16, he became the youngest manager in the company’s history but couldn’t use the meat slicer because you needed to be 18. From there, he continued to work and refine his craft and experience in every role you could imagine at a restaurant.

Eventually that experience led to his first ownership role, where he partnered with an old school Italian on a restaurant named Tiramisu Trattoria. “He taught me the ins and outs and I used that to propel me on the next phase of my life, which turned out to be City Tacos.”  Those lessons proved to be instrumental as Gerry looked to bring his own ideas into reality.

The Birth of City Tacos

The transition from the owner of a Trattoria to a Taqueria was not a cakewalk, “I had $150,000, and I had to make it a success. I had to find a way for it to work because my family depended on it.” Settling on North Park as the flagship location, Gerry was drawn to invest here because of the vibrant community and its burgeoning craft beer and nightlife scene—a perfect canvas for his culinary innovation.

The inception of City Tacos was not just about serving tacos; it was about redefining Mexican cuisine and creating a unique culinary experience. “I wanted to show the larger public that there was more to Mexican food than what was being presented,” Gerry explains, “at that time, most shops used the exact same ingredients, and the product was either in burrito, tostada, or taco form. In the end, the flavor profile was the same wherever you went.”  With a French-trained chef by his side, City Tacos introduced an international flair to traditional Mexican dishes, setting itself apart from the sea of taco shops with its bold flavors and innovative approach.

A Recipe for Success

The early days of City Tacos were a whirlwind of hard work and dedication. Gerry recalls working tirelessly, sometimes up to 18 hours a day, to ensure the success of his fledgling venture. However, the overwhelming response from the community affirmed his vision, with lines out the door and sold-out days becoming the norm. “When we first opened, we sold out every week. We would go back and produce double the amount the next day and continue to sell out. It was crazy and amazing! I love the fact that we were so well received, and people felt comfortable within our space.”

As City Tacos expanded, Gerry remained committed to maintaining the essence of the brand while embracing growth and evolution. While his role within City Tacos continues to evolve, you can rest assured that Gerry is behind the scenes, tightening the bolts and working to make the City Taco experience better every day. His devotion, passion, and respect for the industry are perfectly exemplified by his core team of dedicated employees, most of whom have been with him since the beginning. Gerry ensured that each City Tacos location retained the same level of quality, service, and community engagement by investing in his people. “I’m truly blessed with a great team. Most of my team from 10 years ago is still here. Our very first employee we hired, Sandra, still works at our North Park location 10 years later!”

Weathering the Storms

City Tacos’s journey hasn’t been without its challenges, particularly navigating the uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, amidst adversity, Gerry and his team found innovative ways to support their community, from providing free meals to fostering a sense of togetherness during trying times.

“Every day is a surprise. Every day is a blessing,” Gerry reflects, emphasizing the resilience and adaptability required to thrive in the ever-changing landscape of the restaurant industry. “The amount of traffic in North Park has been diminished by the pandemic, but I see a resurgence happening. You see all these new people coming in to invest in our community, like Brad Wise and Drew Deckman. North Park is becoming more of a culinary mecca for San Diego and its incredibly awesome.”

Gerry was also quick to point out the success of North Park runs farther back than the pandemic bust then boom, it is all about the friendships and relationships which have helped foster our community. “Arnie, from Café Calabria is one of the pioneers. I respect his friendship and what he has done for this neighborhood.”

Looking Ahead

As City Tacos celebrates its remarkable ten-year anniversary, Gerry’s vision for the future remains as vibrant as ever. With plans for further expansion along the California coastline, Gerry is committed to elevating the City Tacos experience while staying true to the values that have defined the brand from day one.

For Gerry Torres, City Tacos is more than just a business; it’s a testament to the power of passion, community, and unwavering dedication. As he continues to write the next chapter of his culinary journey, one thing remains certain—City Tacos will continue to delight taste buds and nourish souls for years to come.