SAN ANTONIO-- It's hard to miss Taco Cabana's bright pink neon lights and building when driving around San Antonio.
Their authentic Mexican dishes have been keeping patrons full since 1978. "That's exciting-40 years. A lot of brands don't make it one year," said Chuck Locke, Taco Cabana President.
You can even still grab your favorite menu item at their original location, which calls the corner of Hildebrand and San Pedro home.
“There is so much history. There are so many loyal guests in San Antonio that for years have been coming here," said Locke.
“Taco C," as some call it, got its start when business owner Felix Stehling realized his bar-goers at the Crystal Pistol across the street needed a place for their late night munchies. Being in San Antonio, tacos were a natural thought.
So he bought the property across the street from his bar, a former Dairy Queen.
With the help of his wife, Billie Joe, came up with the name.
"His wife was kind of very involved with it. He was the tacos and she used to love to vacation in Mexico and go to the cabanas. So that's how the taco and cabana came together,” Locke said. “There is always a good woman behind a man sometimes, so she was obviously a big business partner with him."
Billie Joe also inspired the signature pink color that we see splashed on most TC's today.
"That pink mantra that he developed and is you see our signs our logos… That really is carried on for 40 straight years but it caught people's eyes and still to this day," said Locke.
Although the Stehlings shared a love of Mexican food, they left the cooking up to Taco Cabana founding chef, Connie Gutierrez.
“He loves the enchiladas. The wife loved the enchiladas a lot, a lot,” said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez, who was recruited from another restaurant, remembers those early years.
“We do borracho, we do picadillo with potatoes that's what we were doing in those years," Gutierrez said.
She and the other army of women brought recipes they learned growing up and helped build a menu for Taco Cabana.
Although the Stehlings have since passed, Gutierrez still plays a vital role in their test kitchen.
“When you are happy doing what you like to do you don't even notice the years. To me this is my home,” said Gutierrez.
As the company celebrates their 40-year milestone, they hope to bring back to their roots.
"We are trying to bring back what made the brand so strong 40 years ago and bring those flavors back into the restaurant,” Locke said. "We made it 40 years. I think we can make it another 40.”