Fourteen years ago, Burrito Factory owner Jose Luis Perez hung his family’s livelihood over a food court stall in Dobie Mall, where he set out to provide authentic Mexican cuisine for students and Austin residents. But behind every filled-to-the-brim taco lies a familial journey beginning in Michoacán, Mexico.
Burrito Factory prides itself on remaining family owned since opening its doors in May 2004. From the kitchen to the register, Burrito Factory is manned by three siblings: Jose Luis, Juan Luis and Ana Bertha Perez. Juan Luis, the youngest, said Burrito Factory’s success is motivated by a simple phrase his father repeated at their childhood meat market in Mexico: “Échenle ganas,” or, “try your hardest.”
“That’s why we put more and more effort into our work,” Juan Luis said. “We want Burrito Factory to either maintain its quality or constantly improve. We try to do the best possible.”
After 19 years of working long days alongside his father at his meat market, Jose Luis set out to pursue the American dream in Chicago. Braving the city’s characteristic wind and an inevitable language barrier, Perez worked Chicago’s food industry. As an undocumented immigrant, Perez found security in his uncle’s burgeoning taco business, all the while maintaining a hope he would have his own business someday.
In 1995, Nene’s Tacos was born. That same year, Jose Luis’ siblings followed him to Chicago where they set out to build Nene’s as a family effort. Although work was plentiful, Juan Luis recalls feeling like the business had consumed his life.
“Our lives have always been defined by work,” Juan Luis said. “In Chicago, we worked from 10 a.m. to midnight every day of the week. Life over there was heavy. It was stressful. Work never ended.”
Nearly 10 years after opening Nene’s Tacos, Jose Luis was motivated to improve his family’s quality of life once again. Perez followed his wife’s nursing career to Austin, where Burrito Factory’s current location caught his eye.
Dobie Mall offered a steady UT clientele and less strenuous work hours. The Perez siblings jumped at the opportunity to uproot their lives for the better once more. Now, the family has made a home of their compact workspace.
“It was hard at first, but we slowly progressed,” Juan Luis said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to have a successful business.”
Throughout the day, students line up to enjoy classic Mexican dishes, and the Perez siblings say they gladly report for duty. Equipped with a steady stream of smiles, banter and boisterous Latin tunes, Burrito Factory brings life to Dobie and students alike.
Advertising senior Analucille Trevino said Burrito Factory’s allure lies in the comfort their dishes provide for students craving a taste of home, like herself.
“It’s authentic Mexican food, they’re friendly and it’s great service,” Trevino said.
Similarly, geography senior Justin Pulliam said tasty food and pleasant management motivate his weekly Burrito Factory trips.
“Every time I eat (their tacos), I always feel better,” Pulliam said. “No matter how bad I’m feeling, I know I can find happiness in their food.”
Juan Luis said the family feels proud of their life-long work.
“We love what we do, we’re comfortable here,” Juan Luis said. “We’re among family.”