Editor's Note: This post has been updated with comments from Angelica Lopez, the daughter of Taqueria Durango owners Miguel and Isidora Lopez. Angelica also works at the restaurant.
In perhaps the clearest sign that the world is beginning to make sense again, St. Louis taco lovers will soon be able to enjoy a beloved institution: Taqueria Durango (10238 Page Avenue, Overland) has announced that it will reopen its doors on June 12.
The Overland restaurant, owned by the Lopez family, has been closed since March 5, 2020 after a fire that started in frying oil tore through the building and gutted the entire structure. Though no one was injured in the blaze, the incident shuttered the restaurant and called into question whether or not it would ever again serve its excellent Mexican food.
"The day of the fire, I wasn't there, but my sister was, even though she was off that day," recalls Angelica Lopez, daughter of owners Miguel and Isidora Lopez. "My aunt called and said there was a fire and to call the fire department. I was very confused and didn't know what was happening, but I called the fire department and they said they were already on their way. I left my house in Maryland Heights and drove straight there — I didn't even change clothes and was in my flip flops. My sister called about three minutes after I left and told me it was all gone. When I got there, just seeing my mom was very heartbreaking."
As Angelica explains, the restaurant was a total loss. However, there was never any doubt that the family would rebuild in the same spot. Though many suggested that they set up their restaurant in their banquet center located in the same strip mall, they never considered it — it just didn't have the right feel, and it was important to the family to recreate what had been destroyed.
The Lopez family would not endure their loss alone. After news of the fire broke, several prominent chefs and restaurant owners rallied around the family, organizing fundraisers, including a GoFundMe, that raised funds to help them rebuild. Those efforts, together with an outpouring of support from friends and the community, has been what's sustained the Lopez family throughout the tragedy.
"It was super amazing; we felt, and still feel, very loved," Angelica says. "We've had people come in and calls and text messages from people we never would have imagined. It's beyond what we expected and we are so grateful and happy to feel loved and cared for."
Even in the midst of personal loss, the Lopez family made sure to pay that goodwill forward. Though the restaurant was shuttered, they used their adjacent market and banquet hall as a food distribution center to help those in need during the pandemic. The effort, a partnership with the organization STL Juntos, provided meals, diapers and other necessities to people struggling to make ends meet. Additionally, the restaurant's parking lot is being used as a vaccine site to help get doses to members of the community. As Angelica explains, these efforts are the least they could do to return the love showed to them.
As for the reopening, Angelica is thrilled, but she also expresses nervousness. Because the fire happened roughly a week before the pandemic turned the world upside-down, the family has never had to run a restaurant under these changed circumstances. She knows that takeout and curbside will be huge parts of their business, and she says the family is ready to navigate the changed landscape, even if it may take some time to adjust to it. However, regardless the changes, she's just happy that they have brought their restaurant back to life and are ready to share their joy with the world.
"We just really appreciate how much people love our food," Angelica says. "We can't wait to celebrate that. We're going to have a big ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. and confetti poppers for the kids. We're also going to have a d.j. We have to do something fun, because this is a big deal."
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