By Alexandra Marquez

For The Diamondback

Business at Taqueria Habanero, a “99% authentic” Mexican restaurant on Route 1, has exceeded expectations since it opened Dec. 16, the restaurant’s manager said.

Taqueria Habanero opened at its new location in the Campus Village Shoppes two days before the end of the University of Maryland’s fall semester. But manager Carlos Alvarado said the restaurant was so busy that they hardly noticed the absence of a large part of the university community during winter break.

“Even though the students were gone, [the first] Thursday and Friday were crazy,” he said.

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The restaurant has one other location on 14th Street in Washington, D.C., founded in 2014 by owners and couple Dio Montero and Mirna Alvarado. They decided to expand to College Park primarily to attract the large student population and because the area is up and coming, Carlos Alvarado said.

“Most of the students are on social media and they come see what’s going on with new food,” he said. “The restaurant has a big reputation in D.C., but here no one knew about it.”

While senior kinesiology major Maria Mathews saw a sign for Taqueria Habanero on Route 1 before it opened, she was convinced to go there after she checked social media and saw that her friends had enjoyed the food.

“I saw on Snapchat that people had gone and it looked really good,” Mathews said.

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The restaurant is best known for its tacos, but the menu features enchiladas, fajitas and tortas as well. They are also building a vegetarian menu per some customers’ requests, Alvarado said.

Erik Gates, a senior atmospheric and oceanic science major, was drawn to Taqueria Habanero after he saw its grand opening sign on Navahoe Street.

He enjoyed his meal so much, particularly the guacamole, that he brought two of his friends for a second visit to the location.

“They make it right in front of you,” he said. “[It’s] probably the best Mexican food in College Park.”

Mathews also enjoyed the food and thought the relaxed tone of the restaurant was great for College Park.

“I liked the atmosphere. It was pretty casual. It was a great place to quickly grab food with your friends,” Mathews said.

The owners also hoped to bring new job opportunities to the College Park area, Alvarado said.

“We wanted to bring more job opportunities — good job opportunities,” he said. “And, not only to create jobs, [but] to bring something positive to the city.”

Although the location has been frequented by people working in nearby communities since it opened, Alvarado has seen an increase in students since the first day of the semester last week. He said he hopes to see more students in the future, as the semester continues.

“We’d like to let people know everyone is welcome,” he said. “As long as they like the food, they’re welcome.”

For Mathews, Taqueria Habanero stands out in College Park.

“College Park doesn’t have really great dining options, especially in authentic foods,” she said. “I think people really like the addition to the area.”