SOUTH SIOUX CITY | Standing behind a fiery grill, Alejandro Robles is clearly in the zone.
He quickly grills a skirt steak that will be the centerpiece for an order of Bistec Ranchero before moving his attention to the chopped beef, which will be used in a torta.
Robles is living his version of the American dream and he's doing it by making the street foods that gained popularity in his native Jalisco, Mexico.
"I'm cooking the food that I grew up eating," he said inside the taqueria bearing his name. "This is the food of Jalisco."
Robles opened Robles'Taqueria at 1401 Dakota Ave. more than two months ago. Previously, he served a menu of tacos, burritos, tortas and quesadillas from a food truck inside the parking lot at La Pinata Groceries, 3124 Gordon Drive.
When he isn't making authentic Mexican fast-food fare at his restaurant or inside his food truck, Roble also takes on as many catering jobs as possible.
"I like working," he insisted. "I love doing what I'm doing."
Certainly, Robles prefers cooking to construction work, which was his occupation for the first 14 years he lived in the United States.
"I did construction as a way to make money," he explained. "But it was always my hope of becoming my own boss."
Luckily, Robles had a sister and brother-in-law who have a thriving restaurant in California.
"Their restaurant is very successful," he said. "I worked with them for a while and saw what they did. Because of that training, I was ready to open a restaurant of my own."
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So far, business has been brisk.
"If you come between 7:30 to 8:30 any weeknight, we're very busy," Robles' assistant Laura Garcia said. "The same is true any weekend morning."
And what do Robles' Taqueria customers want? Top-quality meats, fresh vegetables cooked expertly by the owner himself.
When ordering a taco, burrito, torta or quesadilla, diners have a choice between such meats as grilled streak, shredded beef, chicken, buche, cabeza, roasted pork and pulled pork.
"Everything is made to order," Robles insisted. "That's what sets us apart from (chain fast-food places)."
Asked if he had a favorite food on the menu, Robles said it changes all the time.
"Sometimes, I'm in the mood for a taco," he said. "Other times, I like a burrito."
Still, Robles said he prefer the foods of Jalisco over anything else.
"I like my own cooking, I guess," he said with a smile.
That's a blessing, Garcia said, since Robles is always at the restaurant.
"Alejandro comes to the restaurant in order to prep the food long before we open," she said. "He also stays long after we close in order to get a head start on the next day."
Robles said he's never been afraid of hard work. In fact, it makes his quest for the American dream more meaningful.
"I enjoy being my own boss and I enjoy doing something that I love," he said. "It makes all of the sacrifices worthwhile."