Think of Mexican-style food in Western New York, and you’ll probably be thinking Tex-Mex: platters of tacos or burritos with lots of melted cheese and refried beans. What we don’t have much of ‘round these here parts is Cal-Mex, a lighter and fresher cousin of Tex-Mex.
Left Coast Taco in East Aurora is one of the few places in WNY that you can get your hands on Cal-Mex. With more people trickling into the area from Out West, it only makes sense that we’d start to see more of that reflected in our food.
Owner Nathan Root was born and raised in San Diego. When he was 25 years old, he moved to Los Angeles, where he met his wife, an Orchard Park native. The couple moved to WNY a few years ago to raise their children.
Noticing a lack of Cal-Mex options in the area and having a background in hospitality, Root decided to launch Left Coast Taco. The taqueria got its start in the kitchen at 42 North and eventually outgrew that space, moving the takeout-only operation to the nearby Oakwood Plaza. Success at that location led to the recent opening of a new, bigger location on Elm Street.
“So many people are in the same position as me: from California and now they live here,” he says. “As soon as a few people found out about us, the word started to take off.”
He adds that the success of Left Coast Taco is due to more than just California ex-pats, with a lot of regulars who started out with what sounds like a Mighty Taco order.
“We’ve had customers that started out ordering our standard ground beef taco because they were comfortable with it,” Root says. “And then, they would branch off into different kinds of tacos.”
Baja-style tacos ($5) are obviously the main draw. Options include beer-battered cod, fried shrimp and grilled shrimp or cod. The seafood tacos come topped with cabbage, crema, cheese, garlic sauce, cilantro and pico de gallo.
There are also tacos filled with chicken ($4), pulled pork ($4), ground beef ($4), jackfruit ($4), pork belly ($5) and carne asada ($5). These tacos come topped with onion, cilantro and lime. For an extra buck, you can get the tacos “con todo” (with cheese and salsa de aguacate) or “guero style” (with lettuce, cheese and crema).
In addition to two burrito options, there are also specials such as birria tacos (2 for $10), nachos ($6), Cali fries ($9 or $12 with meat), quesadillas ($6 or $8 with meat) and “death tacos” ($6) – fried chili braised pork tacos. The new location also has a full bar that features Mexican beers, micheladas and margaritas.
Root says the taqueria wouldn’t be where it is today without his regulars. He adds that the business community in East Aurora has been nothing but supportive.
“A few years ago, they were ripping up the entire street right in front of us, and that was a bit of a mess,” he says. “But everybody in the village was super supportive and made sure we got through relatively unscathed.”
“We wouldn’t have been able to expand without our regular clientele. We now have people that walk in where I know their order before they even say it.”
Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
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