Los Amigos Taqueria finally opens in Puyallup
For the first time, Los Amigos Taqueria does not come with a steering wheel.
The longtime legendary taco bus that has operated in South Hill for more than 10 years has finally opened the doors of its brick-and-mortar location. The taqueria opened today (July 17, 2020) at 4215 S. Meridian, in the former home of the New China Buffet.
That’s just a few blocks away from the South Hill Mini Mart and gas station at 11802 S. Meridian where the taco bus previously operated – up until the gas station underwent a significant remodel last year.
The new Los Amigos Taqueria restaurant is enormous with seating for about 150, but the restaurant’s owners – Antonio Ruiz and Enedina Martinez and their children – are limiting its capacity to follow Covid-19 restrictions.
An entire side dining room is shuttered, but there’s still plenty of seating in three distinct dining areas, that are well spaced, with every other table closed off to limit the number of people.
Decals leading up to the front counter tell diners where to stand. After diners order, they move to the left to pay. It was very orderly and well organized for an opening day at lunchtime.
To help manage the flow during the opening and because of the occupancy restrictions, diners who order take-out are given a number and are directed to a waiting area outside the restaurant. Staff members pass the orders through a window on the side of the building (someday that window will function as a drive-thru, but not until the Ruiz family makes updates required by the City of Puyallup).
All employees were masked up and so were visitors, who were ready to eat the restaurant’s famous carnitas tacos, enchiladas and enormous burritos.
It’s been a long time coming for the Ruiz family.
GO BACK A YEAR
The restaurant took a year to build out, which was many months longer than the family behind the restaurant had anticipated. They closed their taco bus on Cinco de Mayo 2019 and intended to be open very quickly in their new location.
And then they opened up the walls and that’s when mayhem ensued.
“There were a lot of adjustments that needed to be made,” said Antonio Ruiz, Jr., of the old 5,000 square-feet space that had not had a significant remodel in several years.
He’s the son of owners Antonio Ruiz and Enedina Martinez and helps his parents run the restaurant. He ticked off a list of completed upgrades, including the fire suppression system, the grease interceptor and electrical system. “The building was a headache, but I’m sure in the long run, it will all be worth it,” he said. (Read more about the background of the restaurant here).
Looking at the dining room, visitors will be hard pressed to recognize the dining room’s former life as a Chinese buffet that was a little gritty around the edges. The makeover is stunning. The Ruiz family replaced all the lighting, opting for drop-down pendant lamps, and painted the interior cheerful colors of coral and maize. A half dozen colorful murals decorate each of the dining room areas – some of those murals spanning entire walls.
Diners enter and walk directly to the front counter to order and then find their own seat. Menus flash across flat-panel television screens. When the restaurant is fully up and running, there’s a grilling station adjacent to the ordering area where staff members will make fresh tortillas on view from the dining room.
The menu is quite similar to the offerings of the Los Amigos taco bus – tacos, burritos, enchiladas, combo platters and all the usual taqueria favorites – but there will be more additions made later. Ruiz said the family is considering offering more trendy Mexican dishes, such as Tijuana dogs, California burritos, seafood dishes and birria tacos.
Opening day jitters included a malfunctioning credit card reader, so bring cash if you’re visiting during opening weekend. The restaurant is serious about limiting capacity, so expect to have to wait outside if the restaurant is full. Two staffers traversed the dining room the entire time I was there, sanitizing tables and wiping down all surfaces.
Ruiz was quick to point out an upgrade the restaurant made to its door handles from Kingston Auto in Olympia. They installed a product called Pure Zone that is an antimicrobial laminate. “The company creates a door cover for door handles,” he explained. “What happens, when you touch that grip, the cover that’s over the door handle, it will sanitize your hand.”
Don’t forget your mask.
LOS AMIGOS TAQUERIA
Where: 4215 S. Meridian, Puyallup
KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN COMING TO LAKEWOOD
Did you catch my story about BB.Q Olive Chicken coming to Lakewood? Check it out here.