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Decades-old Mexican restaurant in Tacoma closes, but owner’s food truck lives on

Birthdays, anniversaries, graduation celebrations — the owner of Josefina’s Mexican Restaurant (and previously Casa Garcia) saw it all through serving Tacoma for more than 30 years.

“After 34 years in business, I believe it’s long enough to do something different,” Rodolfo “Rudy” Garcia told The News Tribune.

Josefina’s last day of service was Jan. 30, only a day after a Facebook post announcing the shutter.

“Thank you for choosing us to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, engagements, divorces,” the post said. “We feel privileged to have (been) chosen to share those important moments with you!”

Decades of running a restaurant wears on you, explained Garcia, but he also hopes to spend more time with his family — especially the grandkids. He and his late wife raised three children, among them a nurse, a hair stylist and a soon-to-be dentist.

“I want to enjoy life with them — the time that I never gave to my own kids,” he laughed. “That’s what happens: people enjoy the grandkids. You’re always so busy working that when you retire, you have plenty of time. It’s true. I’m starting to experience that.”

This free time does not mean total retirement. Fans of Garcia’s “monstrous burritos” will find his Burrito Boy food truck roaming the streets and stopping at festivals from May to October. He is currently in the process of securing a commercial kitchen space to prepare food for the truck that he previously cooked in Josefina’s kitchen.

“It’s going to be a little different, but once you get into a routine, it’s going to be easy,” he said of the new schedule.

DECADES OF COOKING FOR TACOMA

Garcia opened the first iteration of his family Mexican restaurant, called Casa Garcia, across from Tacoma Community College in the early ‘90s. After 13 years, the shopping plaza lease became tenuous, so he searched around for a new location.

The name, his mother’s, was easy: “I wanted to honor her name because she always had a big family. I wanted to make her proud.”

Josefina Garcia is almost 93 years old and still going for it, he added.

Rudy Garcia opened Josefina’s in 1999 at 4816 Pacific Ave., eventually buying the property from the retiring landlord.

“When you’re renting, you walk away with nothing — it was a blessing for us,” said Garcia of that deal.

The restaurant served familiar dishes like carne asada, chimichangas and arroz con pollo, inspired by family recipes rooted in Jalisco. He learned his restaurant chops from his brother, Arturo Garcia, who opened the first Moctezuma’s in 1978 on South Tacoma Way, as well as in the kitchens of Mexico Lindo y Querido in Kent and Mazatlán in Auburn.

“Things change,” said Garcia, but he’s not letting go of that taco truck. “I want to have free time, but I also want to keep busy.”

When Burrito Boy first hit the streets more than 25 years ago, his was perhaps the only food truck in Pierce County. It will live on at farmers markets and festivals, weddings, birthdays — “any celebration when people need us.”

Customers have already started asking, and Garcia is looking forward to the more relaxing schedule.

As for the Josefina’s space, he believes it will remain a restaurant “because it’s built for that.”

Burrito Boy

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Call 253-474-7374 or 253-414-8913 to reserve or inquire

Kristine Sherred joined The News Tribune in December 2019. She spent the past decade immersed in the culinary scene of Chicago and, for a time, covered the global chocolate and snacks industries. An avid home cook and beer/cocktail pro, she now explores all things edible and sippable throughout Pierce County. Reach her also at @kriscarasher on Twitter.
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