Jose Mendoza, far left, talks to his employees on opening day at "El Rey."
Jose Mendoza, far left, talks to his employees on opening day at "El Rey." Photo by Carolyn Stein, Sept. 1, 2022.

Jose Mendoza started his partnership with Pepe Valadez when he was four years old. Valadez served as the soccer coach, and Mendoza as the soccer player. 

“He was one of the kids I loved to coach,” Valadez said, reminiscing on days spent on soccer fields in Potrero Hill. 

Little did Valadez know that 25 years later, the partnership would continue. But this time, the goal looked a little different. Instead of making investments in jerseys and soccer balls, Valadez would be making investments in al pastor and guisados. And today, the investment will finally pay off.

“He approached me and he said, ‘Coach, you said you will invest in me,’” Valadez recalled. “I’ve mentored him for many years, and for me to help him become an entrepreneur, it’s amazing.”

El Rey Taquiza Artesanal, at 2491 Mission St. between 20th and 21st streets, just opened for business. The taqueria is taking the place of Myriad Gastropub, where patrons used to be greeted by a dark interior, juicy burgers and cocktails. Now, patrons will be greeted by homemade aguas frescas, trumpos and posters of different cities in Mexico. 

“We wanted something where people feel good and see posters representing where they’re from,” Mendoza, now 29, said. “We want our posters and our food to make them feel like they’re back home.” 

The inside of “El Rey.” Photo by Carolyn Stein.

Mendoza is no stranger to running a business. After playing soccer for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he went on to work as a manager for Nachoria in Burlingame. There, he helped open another restaurant, Triple X Chicken. While there, he was also introduced to Nick Swinmurn, founder of Zappos, a shoe store.

“I became really close with Nick and learned all kinds of things about branding and design from him,” Mendoza said. 

Eventually, Mendoza wanted to open his own business, and he wanted to bring a taste of his childhood to the Mission. 

“I’m originally from Mexico, and I grew up eating all kinds of Mexican snacks: Mangonada, esquites, agua de fresa, bionicos.” Mendoza said. 

In November, 2019, Mendoza and his family opened FiestaBowls at 19th and Mission streets, where locals can get juicy mangonadas or aguas frescas made on the spot. 

But Mendoza didn’t want to just bring sweet treats to the Mission. He also wanted to bring what he describes as the “King of Mexico” to the Mission: street tacos.

“That’s where we get the name El Rey from,” he joked. “I’ve been working with my family over these past couple of weeks to perfect our al pastor and our carnitas recipes. We really want these tacos to taste like they’re just from Mexico.” 

And now, locals can get a complimentary taste of home for the next three days. El Rey will be serving two free tacos today, Friday and Saturday to celebrate their opening. Stop by their location at 21st and Mission streets to pick up your complimentary tacos. 

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Intern reporter. Carolyn grew up in Los Angeles. She previously served as a desk editor for her college newspaper The Stanford Daily. When she's not reporting, you can find her going on an unnecessarily long walk.

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