By Dorothy Puch Lillig

An early photo of Magdalena Cabrera and son Angel Cabrera, now partners in Tacos Dona Lena in SBMD

You may have heard of many restaurants closing during the coronavirus pandemic, but Tacos Doña Lena decided to open — for the first time.

And, said owner Angel Cabrera, “Spring Branch didn’t disappoint.”

Cabrera, who attended Shadow Oaks Elementary and graduated from Spring Woods High School, said it was always a dream to open a restaurant for his mother, Magdalena Cabrera — or Doña Lena —  in the neighborhood.

“Growing up, my mother sold tacos from our apartment to provide for the family so it was ideal to open the restaurant in Spring Branch near her home,” Cabrera said. “The concept finds its roots with her, from the recipes and the story, it’s all her. She has always had a dream of one day owning her own restaurant and it was also a dream of mine to be able to give her that one day.”

Tacos Doña Lena opened at 8788 Hammerly in mid-April featuring tacos, tortas and quesadillas with great authentic Mexican flavor.

“We marinade and prep everything in house,” Cabrera said. “The process is longer and more difficult but totally worth it and our customers will taste how fresh and authentic our product is. We have a very delicious, distinct authentic flavor that makes us different from any other taco restaurant.”

Protein options range from beef fajita, chicken, pastor to chile con carne, chicharrón verde and rojo. They also have vegetarian options like soy-pastor, calabacitas (squash) and nopalitos (cactus).

Soon after opening, the Cabreras added handmade gorditas to the menu — a  masa pastry filled with your choice of meat and melted cheese and topped with lettuce, queso fresco and choice of salsa.

“We are slowing adding more items to the menu, and we will be serving a breakfast taco menu soon,” Cabrera said.

The restaurant offers six different salsas for every spice level, including Doña Lena’s house red.

Feeling adventurous? Try the homemade menudo and/or tripe tacos.

“When you come visit us, don’t be afraid to try something different. I promise you will love everything,” Cabrera said.

For a while after opening, Tacos Doña Lena was to-go only but that didn’t deter business. On one recent Saturday, business was steady with one customer after another picking up orders.

“We decided to open mid-coronavirus because we had a really difficult time opening the restaurant,” Cabrera explained. “After not having any luck finding a second- generation restaurant in the area, we took on the challenge to convert from retail to restaurant. Long story short, it took us an entire year to finish the project and, as soon as the city gave us the ok to open, we went for it.”

Tacos Doña Lena now offers some limited indoor seating and continues with carryout orders.

Cabrera said he owes the successful opening to his mother — and the support of the Spring Branch community.

“She’s literally known as the taco lady in Spring Branch and I love how people in the area know her through her tacos but, more importantly, how they adore her. She’s more than just my mother, she’s my role model and now my business partner,” he said.

“It makes my mother so happy to know how many of you are enjoying her authentic tacos. It makes me so happy to see returning costumers within days.”

Tacos Doña Lena
8788 Hammerly Blvd.