Neighborhood cookouts inspire turning Backyard Taco into business


The group text message would come in, and Tyler Robison knew he was going to end up in the Alvarezes’ backyard in west Mesa.

That’s where he would find Ruben and Maricela Alvarez making and selling their al carbon tacos they perfected in Mazatlán, Mexico, to a crowd of people lucky enough to be clued in on when they were selling their brand of Mexican food.

The duo had a strong following for their brand of fresh al carbon that is flavored with the smoke imparted on the meat from mesquite charcoal. And all of it was done out of their backyard.

“It was a great setup, and everyone loved the food,” Robison said. “Steve Beck and I got to talking with Ruben about opening a restaurant, and he was open to it.”

It led to Backyard Taco opening in December 2012 in Mesa with Ruben Alvarez, a concrete worker; Robison, an orthodontist; and Beck, a commercial real estate agent, going into business together.

It was followed up in March 2017 with the Gilbert store, which is located on Higley Road between the Loop 202-Santan Freeway and East Ray Road. A third store opened at Stapley Road and U.S. 60 in Mesa on Oct. 1, and a fourth is planned for Queen Creek, Beck said.

The owners said the Gilbert location has been thriving. It is right off the highway and sandwiched between two schools, Williams Field High School and American Leadership Academy-Gilbert North. The popularity of the food—with the usual items, such as tacos, burritos and quesadillas—and the unique, such as the Crazy Potato, has something to do with the success as well, Robison said.

“I think what separates us is the mesquite flavor—it is really good—and the freshness of the food,” Robison said.

“It has gone really well. It took some time to get established and build up to the second one, but the Gilbert location has gone very well.”

So has the partnership that began in the Alvarezes’ backyard, thanks to a text group.

“We were all doing something else, but took a chance,” Robison said. “We knew it was good food, and now [Ruben is] sharing it with more people.”

Backyard Taco
1420 S. Higley Road, Gilbert
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m., closed Sunday

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