Food & Drink

Feast Q&A: 'Chando' Madrigal talks tacos and his new shop in Roseville

These days, Lisandro “Chando” Madrigal, 34, is one of the kings of the local taco game, drawing crowds to his two locations of Chando’s Tacos, going mobile with a high-end food truck and prepping to open a third location in Roseville next month. He also has a phone app for ordering that allows savvy foodies to avoid the long lines. Recently, Chando’s got some attention when it won raves in a national burrito showdown run by journalist-statistician Nate Silver on his website and blog

The Bee caught up with the outgoing and always-busy Madrigal, who is married with four children, to ask how his once-fledgling business is doing these days.

On Feb. 20, 2011, Chando’s Tacos received a a four-star review in The Bee. What happened after that?

Life in the business changed dramatically. The line was so long that Sunday it went around the corner. I thought we were prepared for the review, but we ran out of food twice and I had to run to the store for more. It was bittersweet because I finally had to go out and tell people in line we were shutting down for the night because we were out of food.

You soon gave up a six-figure job working in sales for Apple. That was very risky.

Two months after the review, I was sitting in my cubicle at Apple and I sent my boss an instant message, and all I said was, “It’s time.” I sat there and wept a little bit. I was letting go of a company that had spent a lot of time and money developing me as a professional. It was an emotional day, but no regrets. Well, there is one regret – when I have to write my monthly check to Blue Shield for a family of six.

Focusing on your food, there is a lot of talk about what is an authentic taco. What’s your take?

You go to any taco shop or street food stand in Tijuana – I say Tijuana because it is definitely the Mecca for street food – and everybody’s got their interpretation. To be authentic is to do things the original way, with freshness, quality and presentation. We do our little twists on the Chando’s experience with the flavors of the salsas. The burritos in Mexico are different than the burritos in the United States. They’re not as filling and they’re usually beans and rice. Our burritos don’t have beans and rice. It’s a little more on the American side of things.

When you’re not eating Mexican food, what do you like?

I love the sandwiches from Corti Brothers. I love Vietnamese food, so you’ll catch me at Saigon Bay having some pho. But I have to have Mexican food at least three or four times a week.

You now have two locations, a $100,000-plus food truck and 35 employees. What’s next?

We’ve been leasing a building in Roseville since February and we started construction. But business was so busy, I just didn’t think I could give it my full attention. So we delayed the opening until October. We will hire 20 to 25 people there because I think it’s going to be really busy.

What are the pros and cons of being a proprietor?

There’s a lot of upside. I like the fact we are creating jobs. I see how many people live off of Chando’s and I think that’s great. It’s also satisfying seeing people bite into their food and nodding their heads and saying, “Yep, this is good.”

Any downside?

There are not enough hours in the day and enough energy in the body to keep going. It’s hard to balance the family life and the business and all of the curve balls that are thrown your way.