Tenure: Opened Mony’s in July 2013. Prior to that, she and her husband, Jose Diaz, were the owners of the Hidden Dolphin Café, one of the first eating establishments in the Funk Zone, as well as the longtime owners of Mony’s food truck.
Résumé: Growing up in Colima, Mexico, Monica “Mony” Diaz started cooking as a child, developing her own sazón (seasoning) for authentic tacos. Taking inspiration from those experiences, Diaz continues to pass on her traditions to her family at her lower Anacapa Street taquería, where she works alongside Jose and their children, Carlos, Paola, and Danny. “When I cook, I cook for my family,” said Diaz, whose menu often includes flavorful meats such as buche (pork stomach) and cabeza (beef head). “You can taste it in my food. As a family-run business, we are all part of the process.”
Dish she digs: Al pastor taco. Beginning each morning at 5 a.m., the pork shoulder is hand chopped and sliced and marinated in special spices, such as cinnamon and chocolate. Rather than roasting the meat on a trompo (spit) as is typical for al pastor, the meat is grilled a la plancha (on an iron plate) with fresh onions and pineapple for a sweet touch.
The scoop: Mony’s began as a food truck 16 years ago, making 10-12 stops a day. While they still use the truck for catering, the popularity of their brick-and-mortar establishment has rapidly grown and was featured on the Cooking Channel’s Taco Trip. Diaz treats every customer as her own family, prepares all the food fresh and from scratch, and supports artists by displaying their works on her walls and tables. Make sure to check out their salsa bar, with intriguing flavors such as pistachio and peanut, and don’t miss the red barbacoa taco, made from a slow-cooked stew of beef, marinated dried chilies, onions, and garlic. “We love our Santa Barbara family and this town,” said Diaz, who hopes to one day expand her taco empire. “We are very grateful.”
217 Anacapa St., (805) 895-2978, facebook.com/Monysmexicanfood