Sometimes one thing leads to another, which leads to another, and another. That’s good news for fans of the authentic fare at Boni’s Tacos.
Owned and operated by the Viveros family, Boni’s Tacos has grown to three locations in the past five years. During the week, it’s open in the “Tin City” area of Cambria; on the weekends there’s a mobile truck parked at the corner of Main Street and Burton Drive in Cambria; and the Paso Robles location launched last year at First and Spring streets is open daily.
Boni’s Tacos began several years ago when longtime Cambria resident Boni Viveros learned how to make tacos al pastor from his brother, who was visiting from Chicago.
A favorite of taco aficionados and somewhat akin to Greek gyros, tacos al pastor start with pieces of marinated pork layered onto a vertical spit and topped with pieces of onions and pineapple.
As the spit turns next to the heat source, the meat is not only cooked, but basted by the juices from the onion and pineapple, the latter of which helps tenderize the meat. When the pork is cooked to juicy perfection, it’s thinly sliced, put into small tortillas and topped with salsa, chopped onions, cilantro, a bit of pineapple and lime.
As Boni and Lupita Viveros’ son, Juan, said, “My dad started doing (the al pastor) for the family, then friends — it got really popular.” By the time Juan was old enough to be on the Coast Union High School football team, “Boni’s Tacos” were champs at the booster booth.
The family decided to roll out the concept into a mobile truck business, originally planning “to keep it very traditional and sell only the al pastor tacos, but customers wanted burritos, too,” said Juan.
Another adjustment happened when the family discovered they were required to use a commissary kitchen to do much of the truck’s food preparation. After finding the Tin City spot, they figured they might as well sell from there as well, adding several of Lupita’s family recipes to the mix.
“We keep everything as authentic as possible,” said Juan, who returned after college last year to spearhead the Paso location (often helped out by younger brother Cesar).
Except for things such as tortillas, “everything is from scratch. We use the best quality meats, such as flat steak for the asada, and we try to keep the meats as lean as possible.”
With this kind of traditional, hands-on approach, making something like the tacos al pastor can be quite a process. It begins with several bone-in pork butts “which we debone by hand, then spend the next day trimming and slicing it all up, then it marinates for a day, and then it’s put on the skewer,” said Juan.
Other meat options are the chile verde (pork in green sauce) and pollo (chicken) cooked in a chipotle pepper sauce that’s spicy without being hot. Choose any of them in tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, sopes (small, round masa cakes) or huaraches (larger oval masas). Combo plates are available, as are crispy chicken or potato taquitos.
As for those burritos that customers craved, Boni’s gladly serves them even though they’re not traditional, and here they’re also a little unique.
Stuffed with your choice of meat, plus rice, beans, onions, cilantro, Mexican sour cream (“crema,” which is thinner than American sour cream) and cheese, they’re then slightly grilled so that they’re a “little toasty on the outside and stay together better,” said Juan. “We do want to keep things as authentic as possible, but we also want people to really feel at home.”