After 28 years in tacos, Hayward restaurateur takes fine dining leap


Inside Casa Del Toro, the new upscale Latin American restaurant in Hayward, the shelves are lined with top-notch tequilas, by far the largest selection in town. A classically-trained Oaxacan chef makes ceviche and paella with halibut. And discerning diners dig into $56 dry-aged ribeyes.

It’s not what you’d expect from a restaurateur who “made an entire living from rice, beans and tacos.”

But Alejandro Gamarra, a Hayward resident and restaurateur for the past 28 years, is determined to turn his beloved city into a dining destination and be the catalyst for others in the industry to join him. He’s seen its potential since he dropped out of college in 1993 to start a taco truck, Tacos Acapulco, at the corner of West A Street and Royal Avenue.

“I was 22 and had three kids,” says Gamarra, now a father of six. “It was my way into the (restaurant) business.”

HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: A view of the bar at the new Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

Those humble beginnings paved the way for Gamarra’s restaurant group, Acapulco Taqueria, named after the first brick-and-mortar he opened at 310 W. A St. when his taco truck lease expired in 2004.

That taqueria was just half a mile from where he once parked the truck, but these days, it’s called Metro Taquero, a fast-casual spot known for simple street tacos and gut-busting burritos, like the French fry-stuffed Haystack.

Today, the restaurant group includes two Metro Taqueros in Hayward and one in San Leandro. He opened the third in May 2020 — during the pandemic.

“I did my best to get that place open in 2020 and it was a blessing,” Gamarra says. “It kept everyone employed.”

Like pizza, tacos and burritos are pandemic-proof. His restaurants not only stayed open, they kept all 130 employees on the payroll. And a fourth Metro Taqueros is set to open at Hayward’s Skywest Commons shopping center in January.

He’s reminded of something Jerry Brown said when he was mayor of Oakland: “‘More people eat beans than caviar.’ And it stuck with me forever. It’s been relevant for my life.”



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