ITHACA, N.Y.—Felipe Diaz Valdez has taken over the repurposed metal crate cooking space in the parking lot of the Ithaca ReUse Center, opening his own taco stand called The Magic Flavor of the Taco. 

The Magic Flavor of the Taco opened for business on the two-acre property at the end of July 2023, a few months after Eduardo Acevedo moved his popular Tacos CDMX business from the stand to Press Bay Alley. While the stand is an unconventional cooking space, Acevedo donated it and Ithaca ReUse Center chief executive officer Diane Cohen planned to keep it as a space for start-up businesses. 

For Diaz Valdez, starting up the taco stand was a way to expand Mexican culture.

“I’ve served food before to customers, but this is the first time I’ve had a taco stand,” Valdez said. “It’s my favorite food.”

Acevedo used the stand for eight months before moving into Press Bay Alley, and there’s a hope the space can become a launching pad of sorts. Cohen said that even before Acevedo moved locations and donated the stand, she was approached by three different taco businesses. Valdez was the first, alongside his wife, Maria, and his niece, Sara.

“So we decided to just keep working with them,” Cohen said. “It was really that simple. They pay us a little bit of rent to be on the space. It’s just been a wonderful addition to building that community feeling we have here.”

The stand runs 11 a.m.-4 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, the busiest days being Mondays and Saturdays. Even just a month after officially opening, Valdez recognizes repeat customers and knows their orders by heart.

The tacos are $5 each. Customers have the option of steak, chicken, pork or soy chorizo as the main protein of their meal. Horchata, a homemade milk drink, is also served.

Local resident John Sullivan is a return customer, one of the people who adds a stop at the taco stand whenever they go to the ReUse Center.

“It may be the best food in this foodie town,” Sullivan said.

Credit: Casey Martin / The Ithaca Voice

Since Valdez mostly speaks Spanish, the language barrier in trying to communicate with customers in English has proven to be challenging at times.

“It’s been a bit difficult, but it’s not a barrier to us,” Valdez said. “It’s also nice because you get to meet different people from different cultures and countries.”

Cohen thinks people are beginning to learn about the new stand. She said people shopping at the ReUse Center will often smell the tacos from across the lot and go over to support the business.

“Hopefully people will continue to discover them and agree with me that they’re really delicious,” Cohen said. “They’re different from Eduardo’s tacos, but they’re still authentic and fresh and just what you’d want in a taco.”

Long before Valdez opened up shop in Ithaca, he had the dream of one day opening up a taco stand, but never had the opportunity or resources to until recently. Valdez even used to work with Acevedo at a restaurant selling to college students before they each decided to pursue their love of tacos.

In the future, Valdez hopes to parlay the taco stand into a sit-down restaurant of some kind that would continue to spread Mexican culture. 

Valdez credits his wife for coming up with the “Magic Flavor” name of the stand.

“Anyone can sell tacos, but it all depends on the seasoning and the toppings that each taco has,” Valdez said. “It depends on the person as well and the love and dedication you put into it.”