Opening of Tacos El Jefe Mexican restaurant, Fort Valley, Georgia
In late 2018, Antonio and Melissa Estrada started with a food truck offering authentic Mexican street tacos, burritos and quesadillas.
“We always sold out,” she said.
In October 2019, they opened Tacos El Jefe in the Houston County Galleria in Centerville, after selling their food truck to open the walk-in restaurant.
They then bought a bigger and better food truck in November 2021, setting up shop at Food Truck Friday events in Perry and Centerville and at schools for teachers and professors.
Today they are expanding again with a restaurant in Fort Valley.
Tacos El Jefe Mexican Restaurant quietly opened Wednesday for a “soft opening” with a limited menu at 1030 Peach Parkway in the former New China Buffet spot. Their grand opening is now scheduled for Saturday.
“We’ve always wanted to have a real restaurant where people can sit down and enjoy it,” Melissa said.
“And have a beer,” added Antonio.
Antonio and Melissa operate the new restaurant in Fort Valley with the help of their daughter Brianna, niece Brittany and son Alex, who will shuttle between the restaurant and the Centerville mall. Their daughter Santana operates the mall.
Offering authentic Mexican cuisine, their new restaurant builds on their taco, burrito, and quesadilla dishes offered at the mall’s walk-in restaurant, including their most popular dish, Birria tacos.
But unlike their walk-in restaurant in the mall, their restaurant in Fort Valley will soon be offer a full menu which includes appetizers, caldos (soups), tortas (sandwiches) and all things Birria – including Birria quesadillas, Birria burritos, Birria tortas and even Birria pizza and Birria ramen.
They also offer crispy, soft-shell American-style tacos with steak, chicken, or ground beef with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sour cream.
Plus, their expanded menu includes fajitas, salads, fish and shrimp dishes, and specials.
“He does all the seasoning,” Melissa said of Antonio. “He does all the cutting. It puts all the flavors in the food.
“He doesn’t tell anyone his recipes either – not even me.”
The extensive menu also includes several Mexican breakfast dishes and offers roast chicken options ranging from a quarter chicken to a half chicken to a whole chicken to a family meal of two roast chickens.
There are even Tlayudas on the menu. A Tlayuda is an extra large fried or grilled corn tortilla topped with a choice of meat plus beans, cheese, queso fresco, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and fresh jalapenos.
“It’s like a big tostada,” Melissa said.
“Like 14 inches,” Antonio added.
They also offer handmade tamales and Melisa makes their tres leches cake, flan and chocolate flan.
The colorful restaurant also includes a bar, but they’re waiting for their liquor license before they can serve beer, margaritas, and other spirits.
Prior to buying their first food truck, Antonio had his own roofing business for 15 years and Melissa had two boutiques – Sassy Britches and Pink Pineapple Marketplace – for which she made much of the clothing sold.
“He wanted to do something different and he loves cooking,” Melissa said. “He always liked to cook.”
Originally from Mexico, Antonio said his mother and father taught him how to cook and most of what was served at the couple’s restaurants and their food truck was what they ate at home.
Melissa kept the shops for a while, eventually closing the last one in the mall to help Antonio more at the walk-in restaurant and now at the restaurant. She also sells her t-shirts and cups in their new restaurant.
Tacos El Jefe translates to Tacos the Boss or “the boss of tacos,” Melissa said.
“He’s always been the boss” of everything he does, she says.
Restaurant hours are 9am to 9am Monday through Thursday, 9am to 11am Friday and Saturday, and 9am to 6pm Sunday. The number is 478-822-0200.