Del Rio—Down in Del Rio, the Amistad Reservoir and the oldest winery in the state are some unique stops on The Texas Bucket List, but for a taste of something truly unique to the Lone Star State, you have to go to small red and yellow building on the east end of town. There you will find one tired tortilla fryer named Miguel. While his little restaurant known for tapatillos is totally worth a stop, it’s what is going on in the back that brings in bucks.
Julio’s chips and salsa are a staple in just about any store in the Lone Star State. All those yellow bags a bunch of people munch on are made in Del Rio all the livelong day.
“Seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” said Miguel, “the demand is there. And we’re cranking them.”
“Just to get here and have a basket of Julio’s chips is paradise,” explained Jay Gonzalez.
“I’ve sent chips as far as Minnesota to relatives because they love them,” commented Laura Cervantes.
Julio’s was started by Miguel’s father, Julio T. Garcia, who was known for banging the pots and pans while cooking at the old Branding Iron steakhouse in the 70’s. His spicy seasoning was a hit on the savory steaks he used to cook, but when he started putting them on chips, something out of the ordinary started taking off in the Garcia household.
“People will walk in there and knock on the door, ‘Hey, we want a box of chips,’ and go in there” said Miguel, “like if you were going to go get a dozen of tamales or something at somebody’s house. You know? They were going to go get chips and salsa.”
Miguel has been working with secret spice combo for so long, he can’t even smell it anymore.
“You go to a dance or you go to school and people would kind of tell you, ‘Man, you smell good.’ That’s my life. ‘Man. Wow. What did you go eat?'” he explained, “And I’d go, ‘No, it’s just the chips, it’s just the chips and the seasoning.'”
Julio’s reputation for really good papas fritas took the family by surprise and started a spicy staple for all sorts of folks.
“I was so happy that we were selling so much chips. I was so proud… Proud, happy. You know? Tired,” he continued, “it’s still the same.”
Along with his sentiments on the family business, their process of chip making has also remained unchanged.
“The process is prepping the corn, cooking the corn, cook it for an hour or so… We wash the corn, and then we grind the corn, and then we bake the corn…step-by-step,” he explained.
Afterwards they continue by taking the fresh masa into the the rest of the process.
“So, it goes into the shape. We’d cook it in here for about a minute… or so. Then we let it go to where we dry the chip, and then once it’s dry enough, straight to the fryer.”
Once the seasoning is added, it makes all the difference in the world.
“You have a bag of Julio’s chips at home that thing ain’t lasting the night,” said Jay, “I mean it’s gone.”
For Miguel, it’s about carrying on the family business in memory of his father who made this simple snack his life.
“Man, you should have met my dad. I think [he] has a lot to do with [it] being so popular, because the character he was, the type of person, he kind of like sold the product,” said Miguel, “people liked the way he was and I think that helped a lot.”
Members of the Del Rio community are proud of Julio’s success.
“Go to Amarillo, Texas and see Julio’s on the shelves and think, ‘You know that’s my hometown,’” said Jay, “we love that. We’re Texas proud.”
“It puts Del Rio on the Texas map,” added Laura.
“It’s our living, that’s what we do for our life…So, we do it with pride and joy,” said Miguel, “We love what we’re doing.”