Spiced by ‘South-of-the-border’ at Tia’s Tacos

Lucy Aquilar

By Steve Wehrly, Journal reporter

Tia’s Tacos opened at the corner of Blair Avenue and Ellsworth Streets in Friday Harbor. Although a bit off the beaten path, the location has proved ideal.

“It’s not where a lot of people thought it should be,” said founder and “boss” Gail Ochoa.

“But it’s where it should be,” she said as she perused a small dining room jammed with high school students who came from the Friday Harbor High School one block north, and Spring Street International School one block south. “I want the kids from both schools to meet each other here, and Lucy (Aguilar, who helps Ochoa cook) and I will be their ‘Aunties’.” (Tia means “auntie” in Spanish.)

As one might be suppose, $1.75 tacos filled with pork, chicken, beef or sweet potato are the mainstay, but quesadillas, burritos, and tamales are often on the menu board, and on Fridays “Guatemalan tamales” — a larger version made by Guatemalan cook Aguilar — don’t last long.

Mexican food demands good sauces, and Tia’s responds with a collection of four or five bottles of the green and red pepper kind, and a serve-yourself condiment bar with house-made tomatillo and roasted red pepper sauces, a zippy Pico de Gallo, chopped onions and jalapenos and other tidbits.

Gail Ochoa says she’s been cooking south-of-the-border food for her husband Alfonso and the rest of the family “for about 15 years,” and she hopes local Hispanics will start dropping by.

“We’re want to try new tastes and ingredients,” she says, “but first we want to make the best tacos and tamales in town.”

Gordon Elliott, who grew up eating Mexican food in Sen Pedro, Calif., is a believer: “Great. Unbelievably good food,” he enthuses as he digs into a big plateful.

Tia’s is open at 485 Ellsworth Street Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday until 6:30 p.m. Call for take-out to 378-TACO.