The Shy Sisters Behind Austin’s Breakout Breakfast Tacos

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AUSTIN, Texas — It was early morning in the lobby of the Line Hotel, and everyone was eating migas.

The migas, from a restaurant called Veracruz All Natural, have long been a fixation for the breakfast-taco-obsessed populace of Austin: scrambled eggs flecked with pico de gallo and freshly made tortilla chips that hang onto their crunch, then topped messily with Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro and a sliver of avocado. The whole thing is nestled into a tortilla and wrapped tightly in foil like a present.

“When I go out of town, that is the meal I have before I leave, and when I come back into town, that is the meal I have,” said Nadia Chaudhury, the editor of Eater Austin. “Theirs is by far the best example of Austin’s tacos.”

But if the migas, sold in the hotel and five other locations, are attention-grabbers, their creators are quite the opposite. Reyna and Maritza Vazquez, the owners of Veracruz All Natural, are shy and laid back, often clad in jeans and sneakers.

The Vazquez sisters have done more than serve popular tacos from a food truck. They’ve changed the landscape of Austin dining, paving the way for more regional Mexican offerings in a city long defined by Tex Mex cooking, and helping other immigrants, and their families, to build restaurant groups with minimal capital.

“There wouldn’t be so many new and different styles coming in if it wasn’t for them,” said Armando Rayo, a journalist and producer at Identity Productions in Austin who writes about tacos. “They did a lot for the immigrant entrepreneur.”

They’ve accomplished this by making the dishes they grew up with in Veracruz, Mexico, and not bowing to the pressure that many immigrant chefs feel to change their food to fit in. If anything, Mr. Rayo added, the sisters are setting the trends in Austin. Certainly there were food trucks, breakfast tacos and freshly pressed juices in the city before the Vazquezes came along, but Veracruz All Natural feels prescient for combining so many of the elements that would come to be Austin signatures.

In September, after requests from customers around the country, the Vazquezes will start a food truck in Los Angeles, expanding the business beyond Texas. “If we can go and be successful there, we’ll try elsewhere,” said Reyna Vazquez, 38.

While the sisters are proud of their success at home, they do sometimes feel conflicted about how it has played out. They’ve built a customer base that is overwhelmingly non-Hispanic — without a broad following within their own robust community. East Austin, where they started Veracruz, has significantly gentrified, and many of its longtime Mexican American residents have moved elsewhere.

The sisters don’t feel as if they fit into the primarily male chef circles in Austin, either. Customers often assume, they say, that the restaurants are run by their husbands, who are white. “It is interesting how people think automatically that a successful business, it has to be a white-owned business,” Reyna said.

“We are trying to change that,” she added, and not by following some template for success laid out by other restaurants. They are creating their own.

Their arrival in Los Angeles will be characteristically low-key. They’re going with what they know: a truck parked at the Line Hotel in Koreatown. An eventual brick-and-mortar restaurant is also part of the plan.

The truck, called Hot Tacos, will have a less regional menu than their Austin locales: taco bowls, tacos (including migas), quesadillas and nachos. The idea, the sisters say, is to serve high-quality Mexican food at a reasonable price — $11 for a steak taco bowl, for example — occupying a middle ground between the fancy places and the street carts.

They say they have received lucrative offers to open in several states, including Colorado, Washington and New York. But Los Angeles has always been their dream. The city’s thriving, diverse taqueria scene might be daunting for some newcomers. For the sisters, it’s exciting, Maritza Vazquez, 42, said in Spanish. (The sisters are bilingual.) “We want to show that we can succeed in a city that has a lot of variety.”

The Los Angeles move comes 22 years after they came to the United States, crossing the border illegally with their mother, Reyna Senior, and Maritza’s ex-husband and her stepdaughter, Lis-ek Mariscal.





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