Taco Asylum is all about taking your palate for a twirl and escaping the ordinary (as lovingly described on their logo). When I walked in, I was met with an intense aroma of chilis, spices, and meats while I took in the room’s rustic-industrial decor. The menu is full of non-traditional Mexican-fusion delights and local craft beer. I ordered what I thought the most unique—the PB&J Taco–as well as tacos with carnitas, pollo, and chili relleno, and of course, chips and salsa.
Each was delicious, but the savory PB&J Taco won my heart and belly. The crisp bacon nestled between a house-made peanut butter and fragrant carrot-ginger jam was both decadent and addicting. I was hooked and immediately wanted to know more about the Gallegos family, Taco Asylum’s new owners.
I sat down with Tony Gallegos and three of his adult children–Ralph, Tisha, and Scott. They told me about their family’s beginning in farming and subsequent ownership of the legendary Grande Bakery in Santa Ana.
The Gallegos siblings grew up around food. “Our family manufactured tortilla chips and tortillas,” Ralph says. “Our tortilla company had been around since ’51 and was bought out in 2007. The Grande Bakery started around ’79, and that ended in 2013 from an imminent domain from the City of Santa Ana, so we had to close that down, unfortunately – we loved it.”
Scott fondly remembers the pleasant “thwack” of the rolling pin on dough and the “slap” of hands on tortillas while growing up around food. “Being able to work with my family has always been real special to me,” Scott says. “Showing up to work and hanging out with people you love is a… “
“Definite perk,” his sister Tisha says finishing his sentence. “You’re a team, it’s a nice feeling not to worry.”
Unfortunately, the Grande Bakery was torn down after it was taken by the city, and the lot has stood empty for four years as the City of Santa Ana’s project is still waiting for its next step. But the Gallegos family have since moved onto their newest culinary endeavor.
“We’d been looking for new venture for the family and Taco Asylum appeared on the radar,” Ralph says. “It is such a great brand. The environment is great. The people are great. Everything about it seemed to work.”
As previous Taco Asylum customers, the Gallegos family appreciated and respected the restaurant’s mission to provide unique and innovative food. Instead of starting over from scratch with an entirely new team after they bought it, they kept the previous staff on-board. Creating a workplace where every employee seems to have input. For example, the idea of reusing old beer kegs as patio stools came from a server.
Will their children take over the business in the future? “Whatever they want, I’ll support,” Scott says. “As far as their direction and what they want to do. We have all kinds of resources for them to dabble in whatever they want.” Tisha adds that they’re a very close-knit family. “I can see this [Taco Asylum] being around for a long time between all of our kids,” she says.