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By Eric Heinz
There’s a simple adage to what has kept Pedro’s Tacos going in San Clemente.
“If it’s working well, don’t change the recipes,” owner Ed McNary said. “Quality, of course, and price and quick service because we are in quick service restaurant and we can’t compromise on the quality of the product. We can’t vary and shop around and change things.”
In 1989, McNary purchased the original location when it was Mr. Pete’s Burgers, then it was changed to Señior Pedro’s.
McNary began his career in the food industry in San Juan Capistrano, running a Green Burrito franchise at that time.
Pedro’s didn’t become an overnight success, McNary said. It took some fine tuning in the beginning.
“It was just trial and error in the early years,” McNary said. “We made some adjustments to things, and the feedback wasn’t good. So we went back to what was already working. We bought it four years old and it already had a clientele. I learned within just a few years not to fiddle with it and just refine it.”
Pedro’s main dish came together with a fish taco popularity that started sweeping the nation.
“Back in the early 1990s not too many people were eating fish tacos yet, and some customers were afraid of them,” McNary said. “So we did the fried chicken taco, and that one got very popular on its own and that was kind of unique back then. It’s basically a fish taco with fried chicken.”
Grilled shrimp tacos started becoming popular about 10 years ago with customers recommending them.
McNary said he enjoys seeing his customers satisfied with their orders most of all.
“It’s just seeing people come from all over the world,” he said. “We have met so many wonderful people from different states and countries. During their once-a-year trip they go to Pedro’s a bunch while they’re here. Because the recipes are a little unique, it’s hard to find that same taste once you’re hooked on it. There’s only certain places you can get it and that’s been really rewarding.”
Some of the employees have been with Pedro’s for 20 to 25 years, McNary said.
Franchising is starting to take hold with Pedro’s. In addition to the north and south locations in town, there are locations in Fallbrook, Oceanside and Boston, but there will likely be more locations in the future.
In October, the original location at 2313 S. El Camino Real caught fire. The business was closed for a brief period and eventually reopened, but it was the response from local firefighters that McNary said moved him most.
“The firefighters said ‘We’ve got to hurry up and save Pedro’s,’” McNary said. “Just to be part of the fabric of San Clemente, to be woven into the history, is a really special relationship, and so we want to keep those stores indefinitely.”