Global Cuisine

An Industry Vet Launches New Pop-Up Venture Moya's Tacos

Though Jesse Moya has worked in the service industry for years, Moya's Tacos is the first time he's running his own business.
Though Jesse Moya has worked in the service industry for years, Moya's Tacos is the first time he's running his own business. Moya's Tacos
As restaurants all over struggle to find staff, one common refrain is that many former employees didn't necessarily leave the industry when the pandemic led to widespread hospitality industry layoffs, but that many, like Jesse Moya, have opted to start their own ventures instead.

“I’m starting from the bottom but am working super hard,” Moya says. He's no stranger to the service industry; his first job was at age eighteen, selling tickets at Elvis Cinemas. After a stint in retail, he landed a serving job at Genghis Grill and admired the way the chefs cooked in the open-concept kitchen, sautéeing meat, chicken and seafood. "I've always loved cooking and food, and I've always watched a lot of cooking shows," Moya adds. In college, he often re-created meals his dad used to cook, such as baked chicken, steak and potatoes.

After Genghis, Moya spent seven years working his way up at Ian’s Pizza as manager, cook, social media director and marketing director, but this past March, he lost his job.

Rather than look for another job in the industry, Moya decided it was time to create his own business. He found his focus in tacos, a relatively new passion sparked by an experiment for a meal with friends. “I went to the carniceria because it seemed fitting for the occasion," he explains. "I bought some al pastor and fajitas de res.” He and his friends were impressed with the result, which led to more recipe development.

First he focused on ingredient pairings and perfecting cooking times. Then he created a special marinade for his corn tortillas made from dried California chiles, spices and oil. Each tortilla is dipped in the marinade right before he puts them on the grill.
click to enlarge The elote taco is one of three versions Moya has perfected. - MOYA'S TACOS
The elote taco is one of three versions Moya has perfected.
Moya's Tacos
With his taco recipes down, he was ready to launch Moya's Tacos, but wasn't sure how or where he should start selling. At first, Moya considered slinging tacos at sporting events, like others who sell peanuts and water bottles outside the stadiums, but he quickly decided breweries were a better choice.

“I typed out an email saying, ‘Hey, it’s me, a young chef in Denver. I’m starting this concept, and I really want people to try this food,’” Moya explains. He even offered to serve the whole staff lunch as a test run. The gambit worked at River North Brewery, 3400 Blake Street, where Moya scored a weekly gig selling tacos on Tuesdays. Now, with a couple of successful services under his belt, Moya is planning to set up shop at River North a few more days each week as a first step toward expanding his business.

The menu at Moya's Tacos is short, with three varieties currently on offer — and that’s on purpose. Moya wants each taco to be perfect. “I sacrificed a big menu for a small menu to make it taste better,” he says. “Less is a little more in our case.”

The al pastor is made with marinated pork and topped with cotija cheese, diced onions, chopped cilantro and sliced avocados; the fajitas de res taco has grilled steak and melted pepper Jack cheese, topped with diced onions, chopped cilantro, smashed avocado and sour cream; and a vegetarian elote taco inspired by Mexican street corn comes topped with sriracha aioli, sliced avocado, grilled onions and jalapeños, cotija cheese and cilantro. All of the tacos are served with fresh lime wedges.

So far, says Moya, the response has been great. “I’ve heard so many people say these are the best tacos [they've] ever had,” he says. “I haven’t heard one complaint.”

Moya’s Tacos are available at River North Brewing’s Blake Street taproom, 3400 Blake Street, on Tuesdays from 3 to 9 p.m. For more information, including upcoming additional hours, follow Moya's Tacos on Instagram @moyastacos.
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Claire Duncombe is a journalist, photographer, multimedia storyteller and musician. She is a recent graduate of CU Denver, and a proud Philadelphia native.
Contact: Claire Duncombe