The owner of downtown San Diego’s Roxy’s Tacos has issued a challenge to boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez.
Roberto “Junior” Bermudez doesn’t want to fight the undisputed super middleweight world champion. God forbid. He does dispute Alvarez’ claim that you can’t find good, authentic Mexican tacos in San Diego.
“I’m a lover, and a cook—not a fighter,” says Bermudez, who’s operated up-and-coming Roxy’s Tacos (815 C Street) for 14 months. “But Canelo says he can’t find a good taco shop in San Diego? Well, he’s really wrong about that. Totally wrong.”
Bermudez dares Alvarez to do one of two things: 1. Come to Roxy’s for tacos or a burrito. 2. Go head-to-head with him and/or other San Diego taco shop owners in a taste-test challenge.
Alvarez has a 57-1-2 record (with 39 KOs) in a storied boxing career during which he’s won world championships in four weight classes.
On May 7, he’s taking on Russian challenger Dmitry Bivol in a WBA (super) light heavyweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
In March, Alvarez, who has a home, trains and plays a lot of golf in San Diego, was asked by Telemundo 20 about his culinary preferences.
Previously, it’d been widely reported that Alvarez and his brother were opening a Mexican restaurant in nearby Chula Vista this spring. The family already runs El Pastor Del Rica taqueria in their hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico.
Canelo Alvarez (left) in his November 6, 2021, title victory over Caleb Plant. (Getty Images)
Translated from Spanish to English by NBC7 San Diego, here’s the interview that riled San Diego taco aficionados:
Q: What made you and your brother decide to open a taco shop in Chula Vista?
Alvarez: I woke up one day craving tacos and obviously the tacos here [in San Diego] are not the same as the ones we eat in Mexico. And [my brother’s] taqueria is one of the best ones in Mexico and so good, and I told him [brother] why don’t we open one in San Diego first, to see? And that’s how we came up with the idea; I woke up craving tacos.
Q: Will they have they have the same taste as the ones in Guadalajara?
Alvarez: Of course, that’s the idea. The idea is to bring the same flavors, everything that is in Guadalajara — because if it doesn’t, it’s not worth it. Because then it’ll be the same, tacos as here [in San Diego] are not that good, but that’s all that is here and that’s what people eat.
Josh Kopelman, who published Dining Out magazine for 17 years, takes “umbrage” at Alverez’ slight. “I’m a fan of the great tacos places in San Diego– like Super Cocina, Las Quatro Milpas, The Taco Stand and City Tacos,” he says. “They’re fresh and they’re authentic.”
He’s judged numerous food competitions in the region and was the long-time emcee for the Taco TKO contest at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. Now publisher of Infamous Food & Drink (and brand manager for Carruth Cellars), Kopelman says the bar for Mexican fare in San Diego is set high.
“You can’t come into this market with a bad product,” he says. “A bad taco shop will be gone in a year.”
Roxy’s Authentic Food
Adobada tacos from Roxy’s Tacos.
Bermudez was born and raised in San Diego. He’s worked under other local chefs, picking up tips in their kitchens, and previously ran a taco shop in Paradise Hills.
Mexican blood runs through his veins. His father is from Guadalajara and his mother comes from Michoacán.
He says his offerings at Roxy’s are based on recipes handed down from mom (hot sauce) and dad (meat seasoning).
“We use Black Angus beef and put my secret sauce of seven spices on all our meats,” Bermudez says. “Our hot sauces are made from scratch—nothing from a can. All the tomatoes and onions are toasted. There’s extra love in the food. That’s what makes us different.”
Bermudez says just across the border, Tijuana is known for its tasty street tacos.
“We’re right next to Tijuana and we have those same special flavors,” he says. “I tell my customers, ‘You don’t have to go to Tijuana, any more.’ We have them right here in San Diego.”
To Bermudez’ knowledge, Alvarez has not sampled the menu at Roxy’s Tacos.
The San Diego Sun reached out to Alvarez’ camp but did not get a reply.
“Whatever Canelo thinks about our tacos, he’s just wrong,” Bermudez says. “He shouldn’t base his comments on [chains] Rubio’s or Taco Bell. He needs to come to an authentic Mexican shop and do his research.”
Alvarez may be a bit preoccupied up until his May 7 title fight. Bermudez is pulling for Alvarez to beat Bivol.
Post-fight, Bermudez says the challenge stands.
Rooting for the Underdog
“Junior” Bermudez in the kitchen at Roxy’s.
Bermudez stresses he is not a fighter—but admits to often being “up to no good as a young boy.” What’s past is past, he says. Today, he and his wife have five children, aged from 8 months to 14 years old.
Roxy’s Tacos is named after their 9-year-old daughter, who often works weekends taking orders behind the register.
Off menu, you might notice cookies and buñuelos (fried dough fritters) for sale on his shop counter. They’re made by the nuns at Convento Clarisas Capuccinas, south of Tijuana, Bermudez says.
When Bermudez was a young troublemaker, his sister had asked nuns at the convent to pray for him. Somehow, he says, divine intervention occurred.
Today, the deeply religious and devout family man says he sells those dessert treats and delivers the proceeds back to the nuns, along with food from his shop.
Bless the underdog. Praise the Lord and pass the tacos. SDSun