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Good food and good vibes at Homie Joe’s Tacos

By: Tessa Marguerite, Reporter/Page Designer
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Homie Joe’s Tacos
Hours: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday; closed Wednesday
Location: 212 N Canyon Way, Colfax
Info: 512-5059 or facebook.com/homie joestacos
 
COLFAX – When Joseph Rocha’s sixth-grade teacher asked him, “What do you want to do when you get older?” he said he wanted to own his own business. His 11-year-old self thought of a bike shop, then a skateboard shop, then a slough of other ideas before he finally figured it out: Taco shop.
What is now a delicious Mexican restaurant called Homie Joe’s Tacos began in unusual circumstances.
In 2010, Joe’s friend, Marco Cortez, found an item on craigslist advertising jobs in Alaska with Princess Cruise Line. He figured it was a scam, but after his friend returned, proving its legitimacy, Joe and his wife, Melissa, applied and were soon on their way from Applegate to the middle of nowhere in Alaska.
Talkeetna has a population of 876 and, at the time he was there, only four men in the village were named “Joe.” 
“I was Homie Joe because we worked hard and partied hard,” he said. “And I called everyone ‘homie.’” Joe described the place as a “hippy town in the woods,” with no late-night food. After working for the cruise line for his contracted time, Homie Joe got a job at the only brewery in the small Alaskan community.
Seeing the need for some grub after dark, Joe, his wife and Marco — who all had different day jobs in the village — bought supplies, made a food cart out of wood and set up a mobile taco shop in July, 2015.
Like mosquitoes back for the summer, Joe and his wife kept returning during the summer months to explore the back roads of Alaska, fish, have bonfires by the river and sell tacos. During the last two years, Joe said the owner of Talkeetna’s Wildflower Café, Chef Jerome Longo, was a huge inspiration.
After years of traveling back and forth between Alaska and California, Joe decided to start a taco truck near his home in Applegate. When he and his mother, Linda Habay, a chef of four years, began looking for equipment, they came upon someone in Colfax selling everything they were looking for. 
“I had no idea Colfax even existed,” Joe said.
They contacted the owner and signed a two-year lease within the week. 
“I was envisioning colors and paints and where we would set things up,” Joe said.
The building, formerly home to the Pink Elephant Restaurant, is still the same speckled red brick but now an eye-catching purple trim and friendly yellow door.
Now in their seventh month of operation, Joe said business is steadily increasing without much advertising except for word-of-mouth and Yelp reviews. With his close-knit staff including his mother, stepfather Raymond Habay, sister Michelle, and good friend Marco, Homie Joe’s is making an positive impact in Colfax — in more ways than just a mean spicy salsa.
Within the next few weeks, one of the first things customers may notice when they step inside the restaurant, other than the scent of fried tortillas and chili, is a large white board that reads “Homies helping homies.” The idea behind this board is a customer comes in, orders a meal for a friend, writes that friend’s name on the board and then gets a discount on their own meal. When that friend comes into the restaurant, they will see their name on the board and receive whatever item they have been gifted. 
“We’re trying to bring that Alaska chill, cool lifestyle here,”  Joe said. 
The restaurant also offers discounts to police, firefighters and veterans.
The menu at Homie Joe’s is short and sweet: Tacos, quesadillas, burritos and burrito bowls and elote. One item, called “rolled one,” is a burrito that Joe described as “great in size.” 
“We roll fatties for the homies and no one leaves hungry,” Joe said.
Elote is traditionally roasted street corn on the cob with crumbled cotija cheese and chili lime powder. Homie Joe’s offers a specialty hot Cheeto elote with garlic sour cream sauce dusted in hot Cheeto powder and topped with nacho cheese. Almost all the items offered are made in-house by Joe or Linda, including three salsas bursting with flavor: mild, spicy or mango.
Homie Joe’s Tacos also serves traditional margaritas, local brews from Auburn Ale House, Sierra Nevada and other California breweries and wine.
The family members and staff that make up this karma-conscious restaurant are a cheerful addition to the town of Colfax. 
“It’s just homies helping homies,” Homie Joe said. “Put good out there, be cool and cool things will happen.”