Delicious tacos propel NJ family from home kitchen to restaurant during pandemic

When Alex Lopez speaks of birria tacos as the specialty of the "house" at Tacos-is-Life-NJ restaurant in Woodland Park, New Jersey, she means that literally. When the pandemic struck two years ago, family bonding around the love of cooking evolved into the only way to survive.  

"During the pandemic we lost our jobs, some of us got laid off," Lopez said. "So we had developed something so that we all financially could pay our mortgage."


The crew stands in front of the Tacos-is-Life-NJ food truck.

So the family started selling tacos from their house to neighbors. Word of mouth spread so much that in three months they bought a food truck and started showing up across the tristate area.

"We started traveling to New York, all birthday parties, Sussex County, any events, any farmers markets that we were able and allowed to go to," Lopez said.


Tacos from the Tacos-is-Life-NJ restaurant in Woodland Park, New Jersey.

The birria tacos originated in Mexico.  They are known for their flavor.  They were known in California before they came east.

They were an instant hit with residents like Ahmed Elbahbouhi and his family. Ahmed recalled that they checked out the food truck at Pennington Park in Paterson. 

"Since then we fell in love," he said. "We fell in love with birria tacos, we fell in love with their energy."


Tacos from the Tacos-is-Life-NJ restaurant in Woodland Park, New Jersey.

Large businesses like Costco started to contract them to come in their truck and provide food for employees at special events.

The family saved their proceeds and pooled their funds to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Jackson Avenue in October. It remains a family affair: Alex's mother Yolanda runs the kitchen, her sister Jessica is a lead cook, and Jessica's husband, Isaac, runs the front counter.


Tacos are prepared at the Tacos-is-Life-NJ restaurant in Woodland Park, New Jersey.

The menu is authentically Mexican from the east-central region of the country, where the family came from. The recipes are passed down generationally and the family looks forward to sharing them with the Garden State and beyond.

"When my grandparents came here in 1960 they dreamed, they always dreamed the American Dream," Lopez said.  My grandmother is 93 and she has dementia but I can tell in her smile when I tell her the little achievements we made. She always said, ‘I wanted this for you’."

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A sign at Tacos-is-life-nj