The tantalizing smells rising from the kitchen at the renown Taco House in Milford regularly draw people to its doors. People are willing to wait, often lining up behind the brick windows to order the famous beef tacos or Nachos Royal.
From mid-March to late October, limited advertising draws hundreds of customers throughout the week.
“We have an incredible customer base, and this area is so good to its community; people look out for each other, and we are blessed to be here,” said Christina Hamrick, owner since 2020.
Taco House has been locally owned and operated in the Iowa Great Lakes area since 1966. Initially, owners Marta and Jack Campbell established the now popular restaurant out of a little brick building on the current property.
“At that time, Mexican food wasn’t well-known or liked in the area, so she made pizzas. It took awhile for Mexican flavors to become popular and now people’s go-to meal options are cheese nachos, royal nachos, and gringo,” Christina shared. “Marta came from Mexico, and she gradually began sharing foods she learned to make from her mother with this community.”
Taco House’s food reflects the cooking of Central Mexico, which because of climate is known to raise better quality animals and vegetables than other areas of the country. Most of the time, Mexican food isn’t hot to the mouth, unless sauces are added.
“However, the difference between good and bad Mexican food is the types of sauces, which means the sauces used at Taco House are true Mexican sauces learned in Marta’s childhood, when she grew up in a small town south of Mexico City,” Christina explained. “Marta helped her mom cook for a larger family and their workers over homemade charcoal and an open fire. She learned to ground her own corn and make tortillas by hand.”
Christina began working for Marta as a seventeen-year-old. A year later, the Campbell’s sold the restaurant to Kim and John Buller, where Christina worked as a cook and gradually learned the ins and outs of the restaurant. Then in 2020, Christina and her husband Todd bought the restaurant from the couple.
Every day, every item is made from scratch. Nothing is frozen. Fresh quality hamburger is delivered every morning, and on average, the restaurant makes 350 tacos a day and goes through 400 pounds of hamburger and 180 pounds of cheese. The menu board is filled with options, many carried over from years’ past.
“We cook the same as Marta taught us. We get fresh vegetables and quality meat, and everything is still from scratch and nothing frozen,” said Christina. “Why change something that has worked for over 60 years and people love to eat.”
The only items updated at the restaurant are the menu board and a QR code has been created to make ordering easier. The livestock cow tags have been replaced for ordering and a name is called when an order is ready.
“When something needs updated or breaks, then I may update the technology but the food will always stay the same,” she shared.
Taco House has regular customers. On opening day, the first lines start for the chance to buy the season’s first tacos. Christina has had the opportunity to meet families and get to know them over the years.
“Every day is fast paced, but we have such good customers,” she added.
In 1985, the Campbells added to the small brick building, and in 2010, they added a large patio to the south. This added a variety of seating options for customers, and many enjoy the beautiful landscape to enjoy their meal. Other people take their food to go.
“We don’t change anything when it comes to the food,” Christina says. “The brick and red cedar rafters are reminders of Marta’s home in Mexico and the red cedar is hard to get these days. It’s a beautiful area to provide food to people. We love continuing the tradition started by the Campbells and then the Bullers, 60 years ago.”
Three owners in 60 years. However, Marta’s tradition of making the finest Mexican food with true Mexican taste and flavor continues to this day. Taco House is located off Highway 71 near West Lake Okoboji at 1614 Terrace Park Blvd, Milford and regular information can be found on their Facebook page or by calling (712) 332-5895.