Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: January 8, 2024 Shop Talk

Q&A: A taste of Tijuana

PHOTO | Courtesy of Toro Loco Taqueria Miguel Perez, owner of the new Toro Loco Taqueria at the corner of Foster and Commercial Streets in the DCU Center in Worcester

Growing up in the hot Southern California sun, Miguel Perez, owner of the new Toro Loco Taqueria at the corner of Foster and Commercial Streets in the DCU Center in Worcester, was just a car ride away from his ancestral home in Mexico. He remembers driving to Tijuana for day trips with friends to eat fish tacos and coming home full and happy.

A bio box about Miguel Perez
A bio box about Miguel Perez

Bringing the flavors he grew up on to the people of Central Massachusetts gives Perez energy for the long hours of being a self-employed restaurant owner and chef. Tacos that are as camera-worthy as they are delectable, starting at $3.75, pull hungry DCU spectators and students and office workers who pass by on foot during their lunch hours, and Perez hopes to expand the catering side of the business. When he’s not busy making his new Worcester venture happen (he formerly owned Mexicali Cantina Grill on Shrewsbury Street) he dashes to his hometown to help run his Spencer restaurant – also a Mexicali Cantina Grill.

While working in restaurants brings long shifts and few days off, Perez’s passion for fresh and flavorful cooking is bright. Be warned: The following interview may inspire an emergency taco trip to downtown Worcester.

What drew you to a career in restaurants?

I’m a third-generation restaurateur. My grandmother had a restaurant in Mexico. I remember when I was younger, we’d be helping out during school vacations. My mother worked in the business in California. Somehow, we all got into the restaurant business. I do all the recipes and cooking, along with my wife.

You grew up surrounded by family in the restaurant business in Southern California, so why did you choose to settle in Massachusetts?

My wife and I lived in North Carolina, but my wife had family here. One of our friends invited us to stay, just to be closer to family. Someone I knew needed a manager in Spencer, and he offered it to me. I became manager and part owner.

How is the restaurant business in Spencer?

It’s a small town. It’s not like if you’re in Worcester, or even in Southbridge; there’s more traffic down there. It’s challenging, but when you take care of the customers, it makes it much easier.

I have a 14 year old and an 8 year old, and it’s easier to work and have them in school here. You get to know the community. After a few years, everybody knew who we were.

How did you end up in the DCU Center location?

I used to own Mexicali Cantina Grill on Shrewsbury Street. After the coronavirus pandemic, everything started getting harder for everyone financially. It was slow. I ended up coming to Spencer to help my wife run Mexicali there. A Worcester City Hall official had been trying to get me to look at a location downtown. I told him I had a project, but it wasn’t a full-service restaurant; it was more of a taco shop.

He showed me a few shops around the city. We talked to the people at DCU, and everything kind of fell where it was supposed to. Suddenly, we had the keys.

How is Toro Loco different from your former Worcester location?

It’s more like an authentic taco shop. It’s a small menu for the space that we have. We have seating for about 25 at a bar and two tables.

We focus on the tacos – real Southern California tacos. It’s been working. It’s coming up little by little. We get our traffic right before people hit the DCU center. We get a lot of traffic before the events.

Taco shops seem to be having their moment. How do you compete?

We put a lot of flavor into our tacos. We marinate our meats, we garnish it with beets and cabbage. You don’t know if it’s for a picture or to eat. A lot of our customers will post them to Instagram and tag me.

We put a lot of hard work into what we do. We try to put onto someone’s table what we’d normally eat. Today, a customer was so happy with our fish tacos. That’s the reaction that makes you feel great: when someone isn’t sure what they want and they leave with a big smile.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Correspondent Emily Micucci.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners

Related Content


January 16, 2024

Looking forward to checking them out! But fair warning - don't go to the DCU Center expecting to have these yummy looking tacos - they don't allow you to bring food in from "outside" and they do consider this "outside" even though it's part of the building. It's one reason the poor donut/coffee shop closed.

Order a PDF