Tacos Doña Lena: One family's American dream

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Tacos Doña Lena: One family's American dream
Angel Cabrera has grown Taco Doña Lena from a humble tribute to his mother to one of Yelp's Top 100 Restaurants in America.

HOUSTON, Texas -- A popular taco spot in Spring Branch is gaining national acclaim for its authentic birria tacos. Tacos Doña Lena was ranked among Yelp's Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S., as well as Yelp's Top 100 Places to Eat in Texas for 2021.

But it's not just the flavorful food that makes this place special. It's also one family's story of hard work and determination to achieve their American dream.

"My family came to the United States back in 1992," said owner Angel Cabrera. "Prior to coming over here, they actually sold tacos in Mexico as well. In order for my mom and my dad to provide for me and my siblings, they started selling tacos out of a small apartment here in Spring Branch."

Cabrera says his mother, Magdalena "Doña Lena" Cabrera, made tacos and sold them for nearly 25 years, even paying for his college education using the money she had saved.

"I always told myself that once I grew up, I was going to open a restaurant for her," said Cabrera. "And that came true in April 2020."

Cabrera was preparing to open his restaurant, named for his mother, when the pandemic hit. But despite the challenges of opening a business during the shutdown, he decided to go for it - and brought his entire family on board.

"I was extremely nervous and afraid," said Cabrera. "I honestly didn't know what I was doing at the beginning. Managing and waiting tables at a restaurant is completely different than owning a restaurant. I learned as I went. But just like I tell people, when you really want something in life and you want to succeed, especially when you've had a rough childhood, you're going to do the impossible, you're going to do whatever it takes to make it. And I'm glad I took that risk."

Cabrera credits Tacos Doña Lena's quick success to his family, who works together as a team to run the restaurant. His father, sister and husband are all involved, and you'll find his mother, Doña Lena, cooking in the kitchen every day.

"My mom is the key ingredient to the restaurant," he said. "It's all her recipes, all her adobos. Because of her, I'm here and she's the key component to the success."

For hours, menu and location, visit donalenatacos.com.