Taylorsville • Before opening his first restaurant, Martin Galicia had to think deeply about what he wanted to portray.
Like many who start a new life in a new country, Galicia worked his way up and, along with his wife, Patricia Martinez, wondered what it would be like if the couple opened their own Mexican restaurant.
For decades, they discussed, worked and saved until a spot opened up at 1732 W. 5400 South in Taylorsville, where they finally realized their dream with the debut of Taqueria Martini in January.
“I said I had to do something else,” Galicia said in Spanish. “I couldn’t just sell taquitos, I wanted to do something different than other restaurants.”
Galicia thought of weekends and holidays in his native San Miguel, in central Mexico, where the smoke of barbecues impregnated the air with the aroma of charcoal, meats, octopus and shrimp.
“My uncles and my dad would make the parrilladas, and mom and aunts would also chip in,” he said. “Everyone did something different.”
He also thought of his first job as a dishwasher at a Park City steakhouse when he moved to Utah in the 1980s. After years and various promotions in that kitchen, he learned to prepare, organize and cook American-style meat cuts.
From all those experiences emerged what’s on the menu of Taqueria Martini, which serves popular Mexican fare such as tacos, fajitas and burritos. Galicia also added a couple of dishes that reflect his life in the Beehive State, including a Mexican New York steak, and a version of the weekend parrilladas he grew up eating.
For some, it may be confusing to order a steak in a restaurant with a name that alludes to tacos, with cartoon mariachi figures pinned on walls and banda music playing. But that’s what the adventurous Galicia is aiming to change.
“Americans come here and ask me what a Mexican New York Steak is,” he said, referring to a marinated New York cut topped with a spiced sauce and served with rice, beans and vegetables. “They are getting familiar with it. In the future, I hope it becomes a popular dish.”
Their parrilladas, though, have even more Mexican essence and are big enough to feed a family, including beef, chicken, shrimp, chorizo, tortillas and elotes with queso fresco.
Word of the new restaurant is starting to spread in and around Taylorsville. But it’s a tough time to launch a new business venture, and the family enters this phase of their lives with servings of excitement and trepidation.
“I’ve been planning it for about 25 years,” Galicia said. “Now I’m happy and a little worried.”
A family affair
If you go to Taqueria Martini, chances are you will be greeted or served by Galicia’s daughter Anahi and that Galicia or his wife will cook your meal. The younger kids sometimes swing by after school and help out, too.
Anahi grew up listening to her parents discuss their restaurant plans. Now she’s 24 and glad to see it come to life every day.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve heard them talk about this restaurant,” she said in Spanish. “I’m proud that they could achieve their dream.”
There are plenty of options Anahi would select from the menu, but the ones she serves the most are the enchiladas verdes and quesadillas. In the future, the family members plan to incorporate more staples they cook at home such as mole, a spiced sauce that, depending on which version, could contain chocolate, chili peppers, nuts and tomatillos, and pozole, a hearty soup with meat and hominy.
It started with a food truck
When Galicia moved to the U.S., he made friends who unwittingly gave him the idea for the restaurant’s name.
Some people jokingly order martinis at the establishment, though they are not on the menu, Galicia said. The name, in a way, comes from a cocktail. However, the real meaning originated years ago at that Park City kitchen.
“My American friends used to call me Martini,” he said. “It’s a nice name, something cool and fun.”
He and his family had their first stab at entrepreneurship with a food truck they started last fall in Sandy. That’s now parked outside their brick-and-mortar location. The truck is on pause during the wintertime and the hectic opening of the restaurant.
But the Galicias plan to restart the truck in a West Valley City location, offering faster Mexican dishes, such as tacos, enchiladas and burritos.
“We want to keep going, even in this,” Galicia said. “My wife told me, ‘Let’s just open it. Let’s work hard to move the restaurant forward and offer fresh food.’”
For them, keeping their doors open is just another adventure.
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.