ATASCADERO — Last weekend, the Atascadero’s downtown business improvement district (BID) held the fifth annual Taco Day. Over a thousand people filled Traffic Way, listened to live Latino Music and chomped on authentically crafted tacos and enjoyed a signature Central Coast California day.

The musical backdrop blended perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere as people meandered throughout the small business strip occasionally drifting into the local shops to see what they had to offer. Returning for the second time, Umo played Chicano/Latino rock covers and their original songs. Their album, De Mi, Pa’ Ti, can be sampled on Spotify or purchased on their website, UmoMusic.com. 

Olivia Fernandez of La Reyna Market cuts pork for Tacos al Pastor during the Taco Day on Traffic Way event Saturday. Photo by Mark Diaz

The event hosted a beer garden to raise proceeds for the Atascadero Historical Society. People also had the opportunity to sip spirits at the Central Coast Distillery or slip into the Raconteur Room to grab a pint.

The three judges; Executive Chef at the Fig Cafe at Courtney’s House, Taryn Bauer; Owner and Winemaker at Nelle Cordant Winery, Tyler Russel and City Council Member Susan Funk did their best to determine the winners from the variety of excellent taco crafters.

Taqueria Don Jose of Atascadero won Best Flavor,  La Reyna Market of Paso Robles took Best Presentation, People’s Choice went to La Parrilla of Atascadero. Garcia’s Mexican Resturant of Atascadero was awarded the Most Creative for their Barbacoa, an experimental taco that was a combination of taco, quesadilla and a chimichanga with a french dipping sauce on the side. Though they did not walk away with an award, Bauer said that Órale Taqueria of Paso Robles crafted the best carnitas she had ever eaten in her life. 

Event organizer and owner of Traffic Records Manuel Barba said the BID holds events like this not only to help raise funds but also feature the wide variety of businesses and shops in the organization. 

“I think we have a lot of neat things to showcase now on Traffic Way,” Barba said. “Entrada has always been kind of the focus of downtown, but downtown is expanding and now we have this vibrant daytime and nighttime scene here that we can highlight for people.” 

The BID is comprised of businesses from Galaxy Theater all the way to the Police Station. The organization does not hold an official status such as a nonprofit but operates under the umbrella of the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce. Barba said both the City and the Chamber lend a hand in helping make the event a success. 

Barba said that his goal was not only to promote local businesses but also showcase a group of people that help make Atascadero a wonderful place to live and to highlight the Latino culture that is the foundation of the “California lifestyle” — hardworking, funloving and easy going.  

“I want to put on a genuine event that highlights the Latino culture, the Latino community and all the hard workers we have here that are churning out food every day all day,” Barba said a day before the event. “There’s a lot of really good people in this community that are working hard to make Atascadero vibrant, busy and a destination, so I think this event is really a nice way to highlight some of these folks.”