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San Clemente Journal

Pedro’s Tacos: A Little Bite of Baja, a Little Bit of … Greece?

Aug 23, 2019 11:13AM ● By Donia Moore
by Donia Moore

Pristine sandy beaches adorn the edges of a charming Spanish style village. The crashing waves are cool and clear. Perfect surfing is nearby. And of course, this is the home of the best fish tacos in Orange County. I admit it – I am an addict of Pedro’s Tacos and have been for 25 years. 
Ed and Charlene McNary are the smart owners who purchased Mr. Pete’s Burgers in 1989 from Ed’s good friend Pete Katsiametis. Pete is Greek and had introduced some Greek spice blend recipes, courtesy of his Greek wife, which gave his tacos their unique flavor. Ed re-introduced it as Pedro’s Tacos just four years after it opened in South San Clemente. Thirty years later, it is still serving up fish tacos, chicken fajita burritos, and cheese quesadillas by the pound to an audience that can’t seem to get enough of the freshest  food in town.

Not Only on Friday Nights.
“Fish Tacos became popular in the mid -1980s,” said Ed. “Pedro’s offered the first fish tacos in Orange County. Not too many people were eating them yet and some people were even a little hesitant about them. Then in the 1990s, Pedro’s introduced the fried chicken taco.” Move over Colonel Sanders- that one became very popular very quickly on its own. “Originally, it was basically a fish taco made with fried chicken.” 

Having had a wealth of experience as a restaurateur, Ed got his feet wet in the business as 50% owner of Gina’s Pizza Restaurant along with a friend’s mom in Corona Del Mar. Jobs as a waiter and busboy in the Capistrano Depot in San Juan Capistrano and Mamacita's Mexican Restaurant in Seal Beach cinched the interest he had in the food service business. 

He spent much of his early life in Newport Beach, before discovering our little cul de sac of Orange County; (a friend’s reference to San Clemente). He originally ran a popular fast food store called the Green Burrito in San Juan Capistrano. During that stint, he met and became friends with Pete of Mr. Pete’s in 1986. Before long, he found himself eating a lot of Pete’s outstanding fish tacos. When Pete decided to sell, he asked Ed to take it over.

At first, Ed began to tinker with the menu. He quickly found that his little restaurant had a growing but very picky clientele who did not want him messing with a winning combination. He earned their loyalty by sticking close to the original product. But he did add grilled shrimp tacos to the menu about 15-years-ago at the urging of his wife Charlene. 

If you know San Clemente, you know that we are lucky enough to have a Pedro’s at two locations – the original one down by Trestles to feed the hungry surfers, and another newer one here in town for the rest of us that opened about ten years later.

Celebrate!
When restaurants last a year, the owners can begin to breathe a little easier. And if it lasts three decades … well, Pedro’s has certainly hit its mark and found its audience. But its staff doesn’t sit back on their laurels. They work hard at being quick and organized, and make sure the orders are hot, fresh, and quickly delivered to their mobile patrons. 
One of the biggest challenges Ed has had is learning to try not to do everything himself. Fortunately, some of Pedro’s staff have been here for over 30 years and have the routine down. Hats off to Ed – people don’t stay that long anywhere unless they are happy and are treated well. He is very grateful for his long-time employees – many others have been part of his restaurant family for over 20 years. 

“We are very appreciative of our managers who work so hard to make Pedro’s a success.” He’s also very grateful to the San Clementeans and friends who have provided such a dedicated food following for so long.

It’s Greek to You
What sets Pedro’s Tacos apart from the norm might surprise you. It’s a blend of unique Greek flavors, for one thing. If you are a Pedro’s fan, there is nothing else that will satisfy the craving for a fresh fish taco. And then there are the hot sauce packets, specifically the Heinz ones. The Heinz sauce has a special flavor, and it has its own cult following. The packets are generously offered with each Pedro’s order because, if you grow up in Southern California, it’s one of the foods you can’t live without. 

Ed’s favorite meal growing up was far from the Mexican influence. He loved beanie and weenie. “Yes, I loved beans and cut up hot dogs in a can. It was good comfort food.  I now like the carne asada burrito because of its Greek flavors.”

Although Pedro’s tries to accommodate unusual orders or requests, one of the more interesting orders they have gotten was from a client who wanted three taquitos wrapped in a bean and cheese burrito. That one was just a bit too off-center but, unperturbed the client ended up building it himself!

Pedro’s Tacos: Two locations 2313 South El Camino Real and 550 North El Camino Real, San Clemente. Website: Pedrostacos.com.
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