Gaining customers and community support can be tough for any new business or eatery.

But for the owners of Backyard Taco, 1524 University Drive, in Mesa, getting customers was admittedly the easy part.

In 2005, owners Ruben Alvarez and Maricella Reyes, natives of Mazatlan, Mexico, began making tacos for their family and friends in their own backyard. Word of their “tacos al carbon” spread throughout Mesa and eventually became a local hit. Members of the community flocked to their taco parties or “taquizas,” as Alvarez called them, to sample their authentic Mazatlan fare.

Alvarez recalled times where customers of his original backyard taquizas would wait hours just to get a tortilla-full of his signature mesquite grilled food.

“I went to Backyard Taco when the food was still being cooked in a backyard,” said Rylee Clark a 22-year-old local who has been a fan of the tacos for over a year.

“There was a line all the way out the back gate and down to the street. The food was great and I couldn’t believe there was a family doing all this and serving so many people,” Clark said.

Steve Beck, a commercial real estate broker, took notice of the crowd the taquizas drew and approached Alvarez about a potential business plan to open up a restaurant where Alvarez and Reyes could make and sell their food for the community that so strongly supported them.

Alvarez debated the plan for some time but after receiving notice from the city that he would no longer be able to sell tacos out of his backyard, Alvarez decided to take on the venture with Beck and another partner, Tyler Robinson, and began planning to open the first Backyard Taco on University Drive in between Stapley Drive and Gilbert Road.

“It was a bank owned property full of graffiti and bullet holes with vagrants living in it, always getting called on by the neighbors,” Beck said, “we went in and basically redid everything from top to bottom within the property.”

Alvarez, who worked construction for more than 20 years, played a key role in the remodeling process, assisting in everything from painting the building to laying the concrete in the parking lot, a feat that took him only three days.

In less than a year, with the help of Robinson and Beck families, Alvarez and Reyes turned a rundown, undesirable property in a lackluster neighborhood into a sight worthy of praise.

The City of Mesa itself acknowledged the work put into the redesign of building and awarded Backyard Taco with its Exceptional Properties recognition for this quarter.

Since it opening in December of 2012, the community response has been very positive, Alvarez said.

Alvarez is very proud of himself, his family, and his partners and the way they been able to help his community by providing a clean safe establishment for other businesses to model themselves after.

Alvarez spoke highly of his food as well. “We keep the menu simple and fresh. No freezers and no preservatives.”

According to Alvarez, the secret to the authentic taste of his tacos is the indoor mesquite grill he uses to cook everything from the chicken and steak to the tostada and gordita shells.

The term “tacos al carbon” on the sign above the building refers to the use of the mesquite grill to cook the meat, a process Alvares learned while living in Mazatlan, located on the western coast of mainland Mexico, across the

“These are authentic street tacos like the one’s you would find in Mazatlan,” said Alvarez.

In the short time Backyard Taco has been open it has generated a significant fan base and continues to gain popularity within the community. Alvarez said he and his partners hope to carry on the success by possibly opening up a second location, and give the rest of the East Valley a true taste of Mazatlan.

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