It’s easy to think about a taco and forget about the tortilla.
You’ve probably eaten one of Luis Perez’s tortillas in Dallas and haven’t even known it. If you’ve had a tortilla at Tacodeli, Norma’s Cafe, Oddfellows or Trompo recently, you’ve had a flour or corn tortilla from his Oak Cliff tortilleria, La Norteña.
For the past three years, Perez has focused on improving his take on Northern Mexico’s traditional flour tortilla and growing his business. Perez moved to Dallas from Sonora, Mexico, 16 years ago and is in his 15th season of calling Dallas Cowboys games on the radio in Spanish.
Perez sat on the idea of getting into the tortilla game for more than a decade after being frustrated with what he was served. He toyed with his masa recipe until he came up with something that resembled what his mom served him as a kid. He never imagined that he’d eventually open a shop in 2014.
“This is not my line of work; I was a broadcaster,” Perez said jokingly. “So, this was a completely new element for me, but it was always in my mind because ever since I moved to Dallas, I could never find good flour tortillas.”
Perez wanted an authentic product, so he bought his tortilla machine in Guadalajara, Mexico. He made the trip there in order to test his ingredients with the machines so he could replicate what he wanted the tortillas to taste like. The tortilla press can make anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 flour and 2,000 to 3,000 corn tortillas daily, depending on the order.
At the beginning, Perez says, it was tough trying to sell his product because of the higher value he placed on his tortillas and the competition. He says he can see why other Mexican food makers in North Texas resort to “serving food with cumin and yellow cheese.” It pays the rent.
“You started with a great original and traditional concept, and eventually you have to deviate,” he says of what some Mexican restaurants encounter. “It took a lot of work and a lot of sleepless nights for us to maintain it. We could’ve started making a cheaper product just to sell, but that’s not what we’re in for.”
He didn’t settle for the price of his tortillas. Perez’s breakthrough came when Austin-based Tacodeli opened a new place in West Dallas, and he was hired to design and supply the tortillas. He worked alongside the Tacodeli chefs to craft a perfect tortilla that fit their needs. After that, he knew he was a real “tortillero.”
Luis Olvera is part-owner of Trompo in West Dallas. Olvera’s taqueria is one of the places using tortillas from La Norteña, and he thinks the place has been a godsend.
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“The tortilla is phenomenal and has a good shelf life,” he said. “Before we chose the tortilla, he made three different types to see which one held our protein the best. He really puts that thought and care into what he’s doing, as much as we would want to.”
And with the business growing, Perez feels like he made the right move in picking the corner of Davis Street and Westmoreland Road in Oak Cliff to house his operation. He wants to keep contributing to the neighborhood he feels a part of.
“People from other towns are coming out here to buy my product,” he said. “I’m employing people and the product is being distributed here in the Oak Cliff area. Therefore, the money is staying here in Oak Cliff.”
Tortilleria La Norteña, 3215 W. Davis St.