Monica Hernandez and Jose Juarez - Monica's Taqueria
Updated: Apr 22
Monica's Taqueria is located at 506A Mulberry Avenue. The new restaurant is inspired by dreams, ambitions, and hard work. The owners are Monica Hernandez and Jose Juarez, a husband and wife duo behind the scenes.
Monica was born and raised in Guanajuato, Mexico. She came to the United States in 2004, working quite a few different jobs before she got the title of owner and chef. Monica knew how dangerous life was in her hometown, and saw the opportunities the U.S. could offer her and her children.
As for Jose, he was born and raised in Huehuetenango, Guatemala - the land of eternal spring, as he put it, where the sun shines and the temperature is just right. According to Jose, he had a happy childhood, thanks to his loving parents who worked hard and had their own business. His parents told him that one day he should have a business as well. With over 35 years in the U.S. working various jobs, he is thankful for what they have now.
“We jumped on the opportunity and we thank God that everything is going well,” said Jose.
Regardless of the frigid temperatures, Jose is also thankful for their new home here in Muscatine. Monica and Jose's story is right out of a fairy tale - they met for the first time over the phone, with Monica in Mexico and Juarez in Iowa. “We fell in love,” he says.
They eventually met in person in California.
“We only met in person two times and the third time we got married... I fell in love with the voice from the phone,” says Jose.
Today, they have been happily married for over 11 years. The couple explained how religion is their base, drawing how to live a good life from the Bible. Jose believes the Bible is like a GPS - it will tell us how to get there but we need to do the work. Together Jose and Monica have six children and teach them that they need to love and respect one another. Their son Juan Martin works as a cook at the restaurant, and Diego helps out when he’s not working at CBI.
For Jose, he adopted his parents' vision of someday having a business all his own. After a life of caring for children put a hold on their dream, they still had a vision of a sort of mini-mart or something similar. As you may have noticed, that is not how their story turned out.
Monica and Jose are friends with the former owners of Arely's. When they opted to move their restaurant into a mobile trailer, they offered Monica and Jose the opportunity to take over the restaurant. The only issue was that Monica still had a vision of a mini-mart. After deep deliberation and a short time frame, they came to a decision.
“Overnight we became owners of a restaurant... We thought about COVID or having enough money but ultimately we saw this as a blessing and opportunity,” they said.
Jose said this was a door that opened for them, and they took the opportunity. In Jose’s mind, opportunities only happen so often, and he knew they had to take the chance. Jose and Monica are grateful to the new customers they see everyday. This gives them motivation to keep going. It's better than anything they could have imagined.
Monica and Jose see the best part of their restaurant as the customers, especially that they like the food and say nice things about the business. They have had overwhelming support from their children and religious leaders pushing them to keep moving forward.
“We ask ourselves how we can do what needs to be done and better our service,” Jose said. “In reality, it’s a service to the community when we give good service to the people. We need to give the best we have to offer.”
There is always plenty of food - especially handmade tortillas! While it is a Mexican restaurant, Monica hopes to include Guatemalan and Salvadorian food at some point, too. Breakfast is also on the table; she shared that some early workers come in before they officially open and ask for breakfast, which she makes for them when she can.
As for the name “Monica's Taqueria” - it was Jose’s decision.
“I chose it for her, because I love her name and the person who bears it,” said Jose. “We thought about our children and grandchildren but I said no, yours because you are one of a kind, my queen.”
Monica and Jose continue to be thankful to everyone, recalling someone who told them "the sky is the limit." They hope to provide new jobs in the community, depending on the help they will need to tend to the customers. The message they have for Muscatine residents is this: “It doesn't matter the situation we find ourselves in, there will always be opportunities in life and you have to take advantage and not let them pass. If you have faith in God and what you do, it’s very likely you'll be successful.”