But you hear something different when Edgar Ignacio Torres, owner and operator of Nachitos, 209 E. Main St. in Tuttle, says it.
Maybe it’s because to him, family is more than just words; it’s something that he goes out of his way to put into practice. It’s not unusual to get a handshake or hug from Torres or for him to even join patrons — many who are on a first-name basis with him — at their table for a meal.
“We know 90 percent of the guests who walk into this place; we know their name, we know their drink orders, we know their food orders,” Torres said. “Having menus at our disposal is really a waste of time because we already know what everyone eats and drinks. A lot of people say it, but when you walk in through that door, you really are family.”
Torres took over the small Tuttle restaurant in 2009 and re-christened it Nachitos — a nickname given to him by family members — that September. Over the course of this summer, he plans to move forward with a fifth anniversary blitz to raise awareness of the Mexican eatery that, while popular in Tuttle, maintains a mostly cult status in the metro, with many fans calling it “the Mexican Eischen’s,” a reference to Eischen’s Bar, the popular fried chicken restaurant and bar in Okarche.
Many of the recipes and dishes come deep from Torres’ bloodline, starting with a grandfather who immigrated to the United States in the mid-1970s. Upon arrival, his grandfather opened a taco stand and then a full-blown restaurant.
It was a family business that includes his brother (who runs a Nachitos in Minco) and Torres, who said, as far as his kitchen experience goes, as soon as he could “see over the stove,” he was flipping eggs for customers.
And as much as the family atmosphere plays its role in Nachitos’ popularity, the food itself is what keeps them coming back. Torres credits this to the freshness of the ingredients. During each shift, food is prepared to keep everything fresh, and guacamole is thrown away if not used within two hours.
Torres prides himself on offering his take on traditional dishes and borrows liberally from his grandfather’s recipes. He features entrees like the picadillo ($9.95), a spicy, stewlike concoction containing fajita flap steak, potatoes and salsa verde. It’s his grandfather’s recipe. Off-the-menu specials are not unheard of, either. The Nachitos Special ($13.95) and the El Monstro ($9.95) are both popular. The Special is spicy chicken and sizzling beef mixed with Mexican fried potatoes and is a grand tortilla-filler. It’s paired with cheese-covered ranchero beans.
“We’re always looking for that new flavor. We’re always looking for something different,” Torres said. “Sure, you can come here and have enchiladas and crispy tacos that you can find at any Mexican restaurant in the metro area, but if I know that you’re not from around here, I will not serve you enchiladas or tacos. I will surprise you.”
One menu item, a source of pride for Torres, comes with an interesting story. The El Monstro weighs in at just under two pounds and is a nine-layer burrito Torres created one Halloween when a mis-order of extra-large tortillas inspired him to craft the gut-busting tower of power. He added that the creation of El Monstro is actually a pretty good parallel for how he runs his business.
“It’s not only on menus; it’s also in life,” Torres said. “Roll with the punches. That’s how I look at my menu, that’s how I look at my restaurant, that’s how I look at life. I will never stop evolving. I want people to come evolve with us.”