Mexican Food, American Dream
C-store connection draws attention to Maryland taqueria
One day, a customer handed Albarran a copy of The Wall Street Journal. R&R was in it, listed as one of the best places to eat in a gas station. Albarran had no idea it was being published. Soon press begat press and hype begat hype. “Food bloggers started coming to my place and trying everything on the menu,” Albarran says.
After about a year, he got a call from the producer of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Albarran asked the producer, “You sure you’re calling the right place? You know we’re in a gas station, right?” Three weeks later, the network was shooting footage at the restaurant. After the episode featuring R&R Taqueria aired, more publications came knocking at Albarran’s door: Food & Wine, USA Today and even Men’s Health.
“People love that we have construction workers and Harvard grads, people from every walk of life, eating our food,” Albarran says.
In April 2013, Albarran opened a second R&R location. He signed a temporary lease in a nearby mall food court and eventually moved to a larger, permanent location about a mile from the mall, 30 miles from the original R&R. Albarran has plans to franchise R&R; meanwhile, he’s already been using his success to do consulting work for other restaurants. “My experience as a fl ight educator gives me a unique approach to hiring and training employees,” he says. “I have good advice to offer.”
To convenience-store owners looking to get into foodservice, Albarran’s biggest advice is to not let fear get in the way. “You have to take risks,” he says. “But you’ve also got to make sure you know what you’re doing. Get help from people who have been there before.”
Albarran is grateful for the attention his connection to the gas station brought him. “The location made us interesting,” he says, “but the food made us impressive.”
R&R Taqueria serves authentic Mexican cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here are Chef Rodrigo’s thoughts on some of the most notable menu items.
Lamb Tacos: “The meat is prepared just like it is in Mexico. When I bite it, it instantly takes me back to when I was a kid.”
Carnitas Tacos: “Pork shoulder is cooked slowly in a big pot with almost all of the pig. It gives it great flavor.”
Scrambled Eggs with Mexican Sausage: “Mexican sausage is spicy and delicious. It has a very different taste than regular patty sausage.”
Tres Leches Cake: “It’s housemade fresh. Sweet and classic.”