Walking down Del Playa Drive on one of its quieter nights is one of my favorite things to do. People bike by, the sunset is harnessed in the beautiful sky, the waves rumble on the beach and the birds sing … What more can one ask for? While on my routine hot-girl walk, I was greeted by a familiar, welcoming scent. Seeping into the air in front of me was the beautiful aroma of Roger’s Tacos, set up in the driveway of a house one block over.
Roger’s Tacos has been setting up its grill and tables under a tent in the driveways of several homes in Isla Vista since 2019, bringing their intensely delicious food to the Isla Vista community. However, their story did not start with the pop-ups that Isla Vista has grown to love. Owners Mac and Rogelio Ochoa says the operation started as a happy accident after a friend’s graduation party.
“There was leftover meat,” and following some advertising to the Isla Vista community on Instagram they “started selling and a lot of people gathered and asked when [they] were going to return.”
Following their debut, Ochoa says the business received a lot of support from students in the community.
“A student made our Instagram and then another five students made ‘Roger’s Tacos’ logos; then a student made us the price menu,” Ochoa said.
Since that fateful day in 2019, their popularity has exploded. The number of pop-ups have been increasing rapidly, as clubs and organizations invite them to cater for fundraising efforts.. During my recent visit, the line reached almost to the end of the block and grew as unsuspecting passersby and intentional patrons joined. The nearly hour-long wait was well worth it.
Finally reaching the front of the line, I ordered from their menu options of tacos, burritos, mulitas, quesadillas and side dishes including rice and beans. The choice of a burrito, quesadilla, and mulitas allows for you to also choose add ons ranging from rice, cheese and beans along with your choice of protein. There is no wrong choice. Their choices of meats include al pastor, chicken, vegetarian options and several more, meaning there is something for everyone. Each protein is incredibly well flavored and has excellent consistency. The chef recommends the al pastor, which is arguably life-changing. Receiving your order straight from the grill is not the end of the journey — don’t forget to add sauces and toppings. They have a choice of three salsas, cucumbers, onions, cilantro and limes that you can add to your dish. If you order a burrito, they’ll wrap it up for you after you add your desired toppings. If you want to be a full-fledged patron of Roger’s Tacos, order a sweet, creamy horchata to accompany your meal.
Roger’s Tacos has grown from Isla Vista’s little secret into a full-blown cult classic. Ochoa says she does not have any concrete plans for the future of Roger’s Tacos and only wants to continue supporting the students of Isla Vista. So, if you want to plan a fundraiser, try someplace new or simply support a small business with amazing food, check out the gem of Isla Vista: Roger’s Tacos.
Follow @rogerstacos on Instagram for information about their next pop-up! The menu and contact information are in the bio.
A version of this article appeared on p. 8 of the May 18, 2023 version of the Daily Nexus.