When Aurelio and Rosa Torres took over Mi Madre’s, a 10-seat taco counter in 1990, they faced some challenges.
Aurelio was an experienced chef with a restaurant management degree but did not know how to make breakfast. His wife, Rosa, was learning English from behind the cash register.
“We never had trouble with the drug dealers,” she said. “They used to come and buy tacos.”
Aurelio jumped in: “With big rolls of money.”
More critically, the couple had to pay off their purchase of the restaurant in weekly installments.
“I came [to Austin] with $100 in my pocket,” Aurelio said, “but I had a million dollars of ideas.”
After he and Rosa moved to Austin in the 1980s, they opened a restaurant near the Capitol. Later, those customers followed them to Manor Road.
“We wanted to make the neighborhood better,” Aurelio said. “And we wanted to live in this neighborhood. We love this neighborhood.”
The neighbors grew to know them.
“I have people come back and [say], ‘I remember Miss Rosa giving me tacos for breakfast in the morning to take to school,’” said Christina Torres, Aurelio and Rosa’s daughter-in-law.
Mi Madre’s is now a full-scale restaurant, with dining rooms, patios and a lengthy menu.
The couple has also expanded its Manor Road portfolio to include School House Pub—which their son and Christina own—and Vida Pura Juicery, owned by their daughter.
“In hindsight, buying these properties was the best thing for our family,” Christina said. “We wouldn’t be here today because a lot of the restaurants that are closing, unfortunately, were leasing their property month-to-month.”
The couple recently retired from day-to-day work at Mi Madre’s but can sometimes be found at 3 a.m. preparing tacos for The University of Texas at Austin band on game days.
“This is what makes us happy,” Aurelio said.