Tmaz Taqueria brings Mexico City’s street food scene to Ann Arbor

ANN ARBOR – One of Ann Arbor’s original spots for authentic Mexican street food is still going strong after a dozen years in the city.

When Tmaz Taqueria opened its first location on Packard Road in 2012, owner Cesar Hervert hoped to bring authentic food from his native Mexico City to Ann Arbor, opening one of the city’s first taquerias: a Mexican-popular restaurant that specialized is counter service style. in Central American street food.

Hervert, who moved to the U.S. in 2001 after working for years as a teacher in Mexico, worked his way up from a job as a dishwasher at Arbor Brewing Co. to managing that restaurant’s kitchen before striking out on his own with his wife, Ana Trinidad. , who brought her own experience in corporate restaurant management and opened three Qdoba restaurants in Ann Arbor.

When the restaurant first opened, customers didn’t know what to expect, Hervert says. Many were looking for Tex-Mex style dishes such as crispy hard shell tacos covered in lettuce and tomato, burritos or enchiladas.

“We were one of the first taquerias in the area,” Hervert says. “Now we have so many, and that’s good – the competition is good. I think people now have a better understanding of what real Mexican food is.”

Over time, customers warmed to the authentic soft tacos made with white cornmeal tortillas filled with a variety of meats, including Barbacoa-style steak, Al Pastor pork or Chipotle chicken. Hervert also made some concessions: When customers kept asking for Tex-Mex-style tacos with lettuce and onions, he started offering a Baja California option topped with Pico de Gallo.

In addition to street-style soft tacos, Tmaz also serves tortas (classic Mexican sandwiches on a traditional telera roll) and tamales, Salvadoran-style pupusas – masa pockets baked with filling using the Loroco flour – and traditional soups such as pozole, menudo and Caldo de Res. Ingredients that were once difficult to obtain have become increasingly common, Hervert says, as the American palate has opened up to more authentic Central American flavors.

“When we started, we were searching everywhere and even ordering online to find the peppers and ingredients we needed,” he says. “It’s not as complicated as it used to be, but there are still ingredients we have to import.”

RELATED: At Tmaz Taqueria, authentic Mexican cuisine is always part of the lesson plan

Over the years, Ana has experimented with seasonal produce, often returning to her hometown of Temascalcingo, Mexico, after which the restaurant is named. Her mother still makes traditional mole sauce there, and for special occasions she sends a dry mix to Ann Arbor. Winter specialties include Champurrado, an authentic Mexican hot chocolate thickened with cornmeal, and sweet tamales filled with strawberries or pineapple.

Since 2021, Tmaz has added locations on the west side of Ann Arbor and near downtown Ypsilanti. Originally intended for takeout only, the Dexter Avenue location now seats 25 for dine-in. The Ypsilanti location, which shares many of the main restaurant’s menu items, will soon be taken over by the restaurant’s former sous chef.

Hervert says Tmaz has no concrete plans to expand, but after experimenting with a Mexican bakery, takeout and dine-in service, a full-service restaurant would be the logical next step.

“We don’t know how the restaurant will develop,” he said. “But if something happens and we get a full-service restaurant, there are so many items we would add.”

For the time being, Hervert and Trinidad are happy to continue to grow and involve their children and family members in the company. Hervert’s brother helps manage the Dexter Avenue location, and his son Kevin and Trinidad’s three daughters help out at Packard.

“The community support for all of us here has been incredible,” Hervert said. “The Tmaz family has grown, I can’t argue with that.”

Tmaz Taqueria at 3182 Packard St. is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The location on Ann Arbor’s west side at 2529 Dexter Ave. has the same opening hours. Both restaurants, normally closed on Sundays, will open for Cinco de Mayo on Sunday, May 5.

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