Let’s Taco 'bout History


During our last presidential election, a supporter for a certain candidate warned that there could be “taco trucks on every corner.” In Walla Walla, a taco truck on every corner is a very good thing – and we are ahead of our time.

Authentic Mexican fare isn’t new to the Walla Walla Valley. Mexican families first moved to the Washington Territory in the 1860s. Sebastian and Carmelita Colón settled in the Walla Walla Valley around then. They ran a mule pack train from Walla Walla to Idaho. When their business failed, they stayed in the area to operate a Mexican restaurant at 13 South Fourth St. Sebastian was known as “The Hot Tamale King” until a fire claimed the business.

At the age of 17, Ysidro Berrones immigrated to America and eventually made his way to Walla Walla. In the early 1950s, Ysidro and his wife, Severa, opened the El Sombrero Tortilla Factory and Café at 13 South Third St. (no connection to the current El Sombrero). The Berrones often gave away fresh tortillas to potential customers so they could learn about the “exotic” staple. The reception was positive and gave the locals a place to explore a new cuisine.

The restaurant’s menu featured enchiladas, tacos, and tortillas. You could get a dozen tamales for $1.60. Due to life changes, the Berrones shut the doors in 1967.

Today, the Walla Walla Valley is blessed to have many authentic and locally owned Mexican restaurants and taco trucks.

By Catie McIntyre Walker

For more information about Walla Walla's dining past, check out “Lost Restaurants of Walla Walla". The book is also available through Book & Game Co. and The Downtown Walla Walla Foundation. Union-Bulletin photo courtesy of Joe Drazan, Bygone Walla Walla