In the world of food snobbery – in this case, Mexican food snobbery – hard-shell tacos are considered something of a taco crime. Crispy, ground beef-filled tacos topped with cheese, tomatoes and lettuce are seen as so passé that a single mention of eating one could cause a collective eyeroll from the hipster fooderati everywhere from Brooklyn to Portland, Echo Park to Austin. But not in San Bernardino, California.
That's where, in 1937, Salvador and Lucia Rodriguez, immigrants from Jalisco, Mexico, started making hard-shell tacos and selling them to the local Mexican American community at their newly opened Mitla Cafe, located on the erstwhile Route 66 in San Bernardino, California. Lucia, who was in charge of the kitchen, had decided to make hard-shell tacos as this was something her family in Mexico would eat mostly at Lent, stuffed with mashed potatoes. For this new venture, though, she used whatever ingredients were available: in this case, ground beef, cheddar cheese, tomatoes and iceberg lettuce.
In 1937, Salvador and Lucia Rodriguez started selling hard-shell tacos at Mitla Cafe in San Bernardino, California (Credit: Ivana Larrosa)