If it’s Wednesday morning around the hint of dawn, Naun Rayo is up and preparing for the Rayo’s Taqueria breakfast rush.
It’s the day of the week when he opens by making about 200 breakfast tacos.
“When coming from Mexico, where your family works in a restaurant, you go work in a restaurant,” Naun says. “I’m very happy to have my family here, and they help me. I feel proud.”
Opening during the pandemic could have been a rough start, but for the Rayo family, it was more like a warm embrace from Dallas. During 2020, former Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant helped small businesses through the pandemic, and Rayo’s Taqueria was one of them. On opening day, police, firefighters and Texas House Rep. Ana Maria Ramos were there to welcome Rayo’s.
“We were trying to survive, and they helped us out a lot,” daughter Giselle Rayo says. “Before we posted on NextDoor, the restaurant would be empty. The next day, we were flooded. We got popular with to-go orders.”
Their first location was at a gas station off Miller Road and Jupiter Road, where they only served three-fourths of what their menu is today.
Each Sunday, the Rayo’s extended family would come over to start working on food together. Some of it was to prepare for the next week at the gas station and some was just practice for the future if anything else opened up.
“We always wanted to start from a little place and then move to here with a bigger space,” says Briceida Rayo, Naun’s wife who serves as the taqueria prep chef.
Naun, who had been working two chain restaurant jobs at the time, had been waiting more than 20 years to launch his own taqueria.
“One day, my wife walked past the lease sign for a restaurant space at a gas station, and we decided to go check,” he says. “The guy asked for $2,000 for rent, and I said okay.”
So in 2017, in a shopping center on Jupiter Road and Northwest Highway, the Rayos found a place for their taqueria.
“We’ve been doing it step by step and maybe we will open up another place,” Briceida says. “But I like it here. I love this place. When you come in here, you feel the warmth. You feel like you’re at home.”
Rayo’s serves an array of familiar classics such as gorditas, al pastor and birria tacos. But the unexpected gems are the pasta and burgers.
“When you want to cook, cook for you,” Briceida says. “We like to cook a lot of love into a lot of things. Our food is different, and we knew that when we opened the restaurant we were going to grow because we cook different things. A lot of people like that.”
Rayo’s is known for gorditas, a thick pastry stuffed with savory fillings. It’s a staple in Mexican culture that Giselle knew people would crave. At first, gorditas didn’t make the cut, but now they’re part of the permanent menu.
“We are a Tex-Mex place, but emphasis on Tex-Mex,” Giselle says. “The food that [my parents] cook is food they would eat themselves.”
Through opening a restaurant and working together, the family has learned more about each other in different ways.
“We get mad at each other, you know, and then we have to go home with each other,” Giselle says. “I feel like we’ve gotten so close. So much closer. We see another side of ourselves.”
One challenge they’ve joked about is not being able to find someone to cover when they want to go on a family vacation.
It always makes them excited to see guests returning or even question the menu that holds tacos next to pasta. And they’re just as eager to convince customers to try it.
“What motivates us is our guests who come in and try the food. It makes us try harder to put more love into it,” Briceida says. “The community has been very supportive, and we are very thankful and grateful.”