In the age of heat lamps, double-wrapped tacos and DIY burrito assembly lines, Southern Californians have lost sight of what true, traditional Mexican food tastes like. To celebrate its new Tustin, California location, one longtime family-owned Mexican restaurant chain is offering up several simple challenges: Eat traditional. Eat better. And above all else, keep it within the family.
To mark the early May opening of its Tustin Marketplace restaurant—its third Orange County location—the 40-year-old Inland Empire staple Miguel’s Jr. is launching Eat Better/Eat Traditional, a first-of-its-kind fast food initiative directly challenging Southern Californians to question the credentials of their burritos, tacos, and taquitos.
“I don’t know when it happened, but somehow people lost touch of what Mexican food is supposed to be,” says Mary Vasquez, Miguel’s Jr. cofounder and recipe creator. “So this challenge is my family’s way of getting Orange County to remember. This is how we want to make our splash into OC.”
As part of the year-long program, discerning Mexican food fans will be offered blind, side-by-side taste tests and even be asked to create and submit an interactive Eat Better Mexican Pledge designed to show the taste superiority of the chain’s strictly family recipes.
As the Tustin store opens, Miguel’s Jr., seeks to re-educate the public about its traditional Mexican food. The Vasquez family recipes and flavors that trace back to Mary’s childhood in central Mexico in the 1960s. It is those same recipes that were served at the original Miguel’s Jr., in Corona, California, in 1975 and have become the cult-like menu staple at 14 locations, including three in Orange County.
“We recognize that not many food trends spread from the Inland Empire to the rest of Southern California, but in this case we believe bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to Mexican food,” says director of marketing Steve Rezner. “So we’re directly challenging guests to take our taste test, and we’re rewarding those who do with a number of surprises. Miguel’s Jr., is no longer the quiet little Inland Empire restaurant chain.”
Participants can go online to enjoy “Taste Ambush” videos and learn more about Mary Vasquez, Miguel’s Jr.’s mother and guiding light who cannot fathom the idea of eating any Mexican food that isn’t traditional.
“Eating is all about the experience, so the idea to Eat Better works for Miguel’s Jr., because we only want to deliver the freshest, best-tasting, traditional California Mexican food around,” Rezner says. “With Miguel’s Jr., restaurants recently opening in Orange and Costa Mesa, we’re seeing Orange County quickly take to our traditional tastes. It’s going to be fun watching Tustin and the rest of OC fall for these flavors, as well.”
The Tustin location’s opening day event will incorporate different facets, including food giveaways, coupons, and a chance to become one of the first to join Miguel’s Jr.’s exclusive loyalty program, which launches later this summer.