Taco Boy was one of the first six restaurants to open in Mount Pleasant and was the city’s first authentic Mexican restaurant.
In 1970, Robert Baltierrez opened the family restaurant in Grand Rapids. Two years later, his son, Robert Baltierrez II, opened the second location in Mount Pleasant as the city’s first Mexican restaurant.
Taco Boy has served generations of Mount Pleasant residents with traditional homemade Mexican dishes using family recipes. Taco Boy has proudly remained a family owned establishment and a community staple for over 50 years.
Central Michigan Life talked to Baltierrez II about his restaurant and his history in Mount Pleasant.
CM-Life: What has it been like running a small business in Mount Pleasant for over 50 years?
Baltierrez II: It’s very difficult, we were the sixth restaurant here in Mount Pleasant. As you can see, there are now a lot of restaurants (and) a lot of chains. It makes it harder for independent owners when you’re competing against big corporations, but it’s been good. I’ve met a lot of good people here in Mount Pleasant.
We have a great following – we’ve been here so long. We still have people coming to this restaurant who actually came to our restaurant which we opened 50 years ago. We have a lot of former students (and) we also have their families.
Do you find it difficult to compete with the big restaurant chains?
Yes and no. I mean a lot of people are used to this kind of food, but this is different. It’s a whole different kind of food because we make everything from scratch and that’s what separates us from them. Nothing we serve is pre-preserved or pre-packaged.
We have a lot of regulars who come. Some come two, three (or) sometimes four times a week.
Many of them knew the original location on Preston Street, and they still come and bring their children. Some of them have kids who now have kids coming… Taco Boy has a great legacy here in Mount Pleasant.
Is there a story behind the name and logo?
It’s my nephew in the logo. My dad took a picture of him once and a little sombrero like you see on the front panel. My dad thought that was kinda cute, so he said, “Well, we’ll just call it Taco Boy,” and that’s how we got the name. This was actually around the time we were setting up our first restaurant in Grand Rapids.
What are your most popular foods?
Our wet burritos are particularly popular. We sell lots of wet burritos and lots of taco salads. All of our dishes that we serve here are all homemade – these are all my grandmother’s and mother’s recipes. We cook everything from scratch, and it’s a special enchilada sauce they invented that we put on the burritos – that’s why we call them wet burritos.
Did you stay open during the COVID pandemic?
Yes, I didn’t have to let any of my employees go – I kept them all. You know, everyone who works for me has families and bills to pay. There were times when it was slow, and it hurt a little to have to pay for them, but I didn’t want to let anyone go. My employees are very loyal, and when I get that kind of loyalty, I try to return it. I kept them all on a schedule somehow to get through this.
Why should students come here?
If they want a good product (and) something good to eat, this is where they should try. I know a lot of them eat Taco Bell, but it’s a totally different kind of food – it’s a local staple. When we host young people they love it and we have specials every day.