Tacos Locos brings a new taqueria to Dinkytown

The restaurant opened Wednesday underneath Sydney Hall, with owner Ruben Arellano hoping to eventually expand.

Tacos+Locos+Owner+Ruben+Arellano+poses+for+a+portrait+in+his+restaurant+on+Friday%2C+July+8.

Ray Shehadeh

Tacos Locos Owner Ruben Arellano poses for a portrait in his restaurant on Friday, July 8.

by Devlin Epding

After roughly two decades working in the restaurant industry, Ruben Arellano decided it was time to try something new. Now, Arellano is the owner of his first taqueria, a place he already prefers to his other restaurants.

After roughly seven months of preparation, Tacos Locos opened its doors in Dinkytown Wednesday, welcoming customers to the neighborhood’s new Mexican-American fusion taqueria.

Arellano has owned restaurants for over 20 years, including four El Loro Mexican Restaurant locations around the Twin Cities. Arellano said he is excited to begin his “new adventure” with the business and the surrounding community.

“I’m excited to see different people,” Arellano said. “This is a really new concept compared to [El Loro] because here…you see people all the time. You get to say, ‘hey, how are you doing?’ It’s going to be nice.”

Arellano made an effort to speak with every customer who walked in, answering questions about the menu and offering complimentary condiments for customers’ meals. As he grilled shrimp taco platters and prepared various tortas, Arellano laughed with both his customers and employees.

Although Tacos Locos is primarily a taqueria, Arellano said he included a wide variety of menu items such as quesabirrias and tamales to help distinguish itself as a place to get original Mexican food.

“We feel more authentic,” Arellano said. “We have a priority for all our customers to come in here and try different stuff.”

Customers coming in to try the new restaurant felt that authenticity. Some said they had been anticipating Tacos Locos’ opening since 2021, while others first discovered the restaurant while walking by.

The Tacos Locos Owner Restaurant in Dinkytown, captured on on Friday, July 8. (Ray Shehadeh)

“I love this because if you want really authentic Mexican food, this is the place to go,” Nou Yang said. “You’re supporting local people instead of big chains, and it’s good. It’s good, wholesome food.”

Yang and Hector Reyes said they have followed Arellano’s restaurants for years and have been excited about this new opening for months.

“Many Latinos, Mexicans and South Americans, we are very attached to our mom’s food,” Reyes said. “This is not too far away from it … fresh and tasty, that’s what we love.”

Freshness is something Tacos Locos focuses on, Arellano said. Meat and fries are cooked to order, and rice, beans and vegetables are prepared every morning.

When guests place an order from the three-page menu, they can watch Arellano and his employees prepare the food from across a counter, something Marcy-Holmes resident Randy Voracek said he was “super impressed” with.

Arellano said service quality is just as important as food quality at Tacos Locos, and wants to ensure that guests have a consistently positive experience every time they walk in the door, whether for dine-in or take out.

Miracle Clarkson goes to school near the University and saw Tacos Locos open while on her running route. After trying the restaurant’s birria tacos, Clarkson said the restaurant is a place she hopes everyone will try.

“These are some of the best tacos I’ve ever had,” Clarkson said. “This place is so welcoming, if I had a question, all the staff jumped in. They even brought out my food and opened my drink for me.”

Tacos Locos had a soft opening with no formal announcements or advertisements to allow new employees to learn the job at a more manageable pace, Arellano said.

Although Arellano is currently responsible for most of the cooking and food preparation, he said he hopes he can be a more hands-off manager as his employees continue to improve.

Arellano signed a lease in Sydney Hall for Tacos Locos in November 2021, but due to supply chain issues for new equipment, he was unable to open the restaurant until Wednesday. Despite the setbacks, Arellano said he hopes to open more taquerias near the University and receive feedback on making them better.

“I want people to come and try it out,” Arellano said. “If there’s something we can do better, let us know … we want to listen.”