On the corner of Cullen and Gray, just a short distance from Polk, sits a trailer converted into a standing food truck. The smell of fresh baked bread wafts through the air as the ever-present reminder that the Leeland Baking building is about a block away. Two vertical lights frame the window of the trailer illuminating the surrounding parking lot and revealing a painting on the side of the food truck of cartoon pig.
The pig, licking its lips while staring at a plate of food, dons a blue shirt with the words “Team Keto” written across his chest. The whole set up is very easy to drive past but to do so would be passing up on almost two and a half decades worth of a family’s dedication to Houston.
Taco Keto is celebrating 24 years of operating in Houston. The food truck, started by Blanca Chavez’s parents Rosie and Leo Chavez, has expanded in popularity as new Houstonians discover their authentic Mexican flavors and expanded in staff as more family members join to help out.
Over that time period a lot has changed. Buildings have sprung up around the small lot bringing new businesses, customers, and residents to the area. A newly painted bike lane runs down Cullen in front of the lot, and while that may seem like a small change, it’s pretty significant for a town that is not known historically for its pedestrian traffic. Throughout all the change Chavez and her crew continue to work and bring the family’s traditional offerings into the future. The time-tested menu at Tack Keto continues to hold up even in the face of changing tastes and diets.
“Our name came from Monterey, Mexico. It’s actually a play on words and means flirty taco.” she smiles while motioning for her son to leave the sizzling grill and take a quick break. “Ever since this whole Keto diet came around, we get customers coming up and asking are we Keto, Is our menu keto, or do we have something to do with keto. We actually had the name Taco Keto 24 years ago.”
She laughs making sure to put emphasis on the pronunciation. The diet is Key-Toe. The family business is pronounced Keh-Toe. Chavez wasn’t worrying about the pronunciation in the late '90s when her dad had her working on the food truck. She was just trying to be anywhere else but the family business.
“My first day here I was 14 years old and I hated it. Hated it. It was me and my Dad and we served 40 tacos that day. We didn’t even serve them the right way. My mom was so upset but those customers kept coming back. We started learning what the customers liked. We made friends and friends became family. We’ve watched the new buildings come and with that has come new people and we love it. I love being here with my family. The food truck was my mom’s idea. My dad takes care of everything including the recipes and cleaning the tuck. I manage the place. My 15-year-old son is our chef. My younger son and niece do the inventory. It’s just all family.”
Chavez might not have enjoyed her first day but her son, Izzy, took on the responsibility of working the grill just a short while ago and hasn’t looked back.
“My first day was when we reopened in March,” he excitedly recalls. “There were cars everywhere. I was running across the street to Kroger to get more supplies. Everything is so fast paced, and you have to pay attention to detail but ever since that day I’ve been hooked.”
The rush came from customers that missed all that Taco Keto had to offer. The business is facing the same difficulties that restaurants nationwide are having to overcome because of the pandemic. Chavez says it’s the community that has really come through to show support.
“When we first came back it was tough. We were closed for a while. We used to be open all week and now we're only here Thursday through Sunday. My parents are older and we want to take care of them by not having them around too many people. People call the number to place orders all the time. We used to have the signs up about wearing masks but now we don’t have to remind people. People really understand about keeping us and them safe. We’ve never had a problem with support here and it’s been like that for the last 24 years.”
What has kept Taco Keto going strong for this long is a menu full of flavor and a few secret ingredients from the family matriarch.
“We specialize in Tacos. Our most popular dish is Las Koketadas which is our corn tortillas. They are seasoned in our special red sauce that my mom came up with and she will not tell anybody what is in it. They are served with meat, cheese, grilled onions potatoes, cilantro, potatoes and just all the goods. I always tell people to start off with that. Now if you’re really hungry then go for the burrito. You won’t be hungry after.”
While the grandmother won’t give up her recipe, there’s a new guy on the grill and he has been paying close attention. Her grandson has been studying and wants to take Taco Keto into the future.
“Yeah, I know the recipe,” he smiles as he looks at his mom. “I made a few touches to it myself. Since my first day I would see my grandma put the red sauce on everything and I would just watch her. I kept thinking I could do something with it so I would just go home and experiment. I worked on it almost every day for at least a month and eventually I got the hang of it. She likes it.”
- 1401 Cullen
- Right now, they are on limited hours so keep that in mind
- Follow them on Facebook ("it’s the profile pic with the pig")
- If you want to order ahead call them at 713-224-1898.
- She’s not joking about the burrito. You won’t be hungry afterward.
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