Dining with Didier: So Illegal, It’s Good!

Didier Delphin, Associate Editor

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As I walked in the decorated place that once was a long spaced garage, now renovated with a bright painted wall of orange, vibrant Mexican culture from Los Tigres Del Norte-”La Puerta Negra” playing in the radio to the smell of delicious Costillas and Fajitas being grilled, I had a feeling that this spot would be different than other Mexican spots. Man,  the city of Philadelphia was in for a Tapatio Jalisco in their mouths.

“Welcome, What can I get you?” said a tall looking, red shirt gentleman that stood behind the counter.

“Hi, I’m not exactly sure.  What do you recommend?”- said the Community College of Philadelphia Journalist

“Sure. We have our Taco Bowl Salad which comes with any choice of protein (Shrimp, Veggie, Short Rib Barbacca) that is served in a fried tortilla bowl with black beans & rice, and any toppings ( such as Queso Fresco, Mixed Cheese, Pickled Onions, Guacamole Salsa) of your choice.”

Without a second doubt, with the mesmerizing shrimp being grilled behind him, draining  all of my saliva glands from just looking, and turning my stomach inside out with a monstrous desire for anything at this point, I quickly agreed with him.

“Ok. Would you like any drink with that, sir?”

“Yes. I’ll have a Jarritos please.”

With a total of under 20.00 bucks, I took my receipt and waited for my meal to descend into my arms. I took a seat in a traditional outdoor lunch table. Further to the entrance, every stool seat that faced towards the vibrant city streets and a live set onto the nightlife , which were in my opinion, the best option for a party of one, had been preoccupied by customers either impatiently waiting as I was, or enjoying their meals.

Under a total of twenty minutes, I was called up.

Have you ever been to a movie theater? You know that certain spark in your eyes that somehow work simultaneously with that spark in your belly mixed with the anticipation of your meal being ready, imagine that, but times 10. With a goosebump of precision in my actions from the departure of table to the counter and back to my seat, I’ve never been so excited and anxious at the same time in my life.

“Here we are! Enjoy sir.” Said the silky black haired gentleman as he proceeded to hand me my Bowl.

“Thank you!”

As I sat down, I immediately went to the offense. The smooth tenderness of the meat, the perfectly fried tortilla and the extreme balance of the Jarritos with the rice enabled me to repeat the same actions until I could no longer. I barely breathed as I ate. How could something so good be so cheap? It’s almost as if….it was illegal!

After a well enjoyed meal and a few loose tears that managed to evoke my conscience after this exploding experience, I decided to search for more. For one, why was this place called “Illegal Tacos”? And second, why advertise this NOW when there’s so much going on with this nation’s immigration policies and culture abashment?

I stood up and moved towards the counter where the silky black haired gentleman stood.

“Excuse me, can I speak to the manager?” –

“Is something wrong with the meal?” –

“Oh no. Quite the opposite, I’d like to learn more about this place and why the owner decided to name it as such.”

“Oh ok. Sure, What w..”

“ Ok Boss. I’m heading out. Take it easy,” said another green shirted gentleman as he directed himself towards the door to the silky black haired gentleman standing in front of me.

“Ok. see you tomorrow J,” said the silky black haired gentleman.

“Are you..?”

“Yes. I am Florian. Nice to meet you,” said the silky black haired gentleman.

That was my first encounter with Florian Furxhiu; the La Salle University graduate and now renowned Keller Williams Realty Center City agent and owner of the “Illegal Tacos” on S. Broad St.

As I introduced myself and started pondering him with questions, he was kind enough to move away from the counter, sit down  and converse with me. With a strong business posture and eyes that payed attention to our surroundings, he was multitasking my questions and the business he was running. It was like the eyes of a father watching it’s child taking its first step. Before I even asked my questions, he answered. Before I knew it, the interaction had been less of an interview  and more of a conversation basis.

“ Why Illegal Tacos?”

“I love the Mexican culture.  From the tradition, the music., the food to the people, the  energy is unique. I know the risks of having the words illegal and tacos come together with so much that is happening in the world of today. However, that is all the more reason why it is crucial to show the city the vibrant culture existent. How am I in the wrong for pushing forward a positive image when I am an immigrant myself?”

Mr. Furxhiu stated in regards to the recent petition, organized by the Philadelphia Locals For Immigrant Rights, stated that the name “Illegal Tacos” is offensive to the local immigrant community of Philadelphia and embodies a lack of decency.

“ And what does it mean for you to be an American?” I asked.

“ I immigrated to this country to pursue the American Dream. Through discipline, sheer hard work and determination, I still exceed my limits and pursue this Dream till this day. I am not here to bash any culture. I respect and love it. Being an American is being free and being able to stand proud with respect of other cultures and follow the independent path to your goal. ”  

“That’s amazing. So, with all the management going on, how do you best manage your life?” I asked.

“ With 2 hours of rest and 22 of management, I balance everything that has to do with my businesses. I’m afraid when the process tends to go in cycle, I have less and less time with my family,” Mr. Furxhiu stated.

I took a moment to understand the amount of sacrifices and labor that went into this place to metamorph this vision into reality. Then I asked:

“ What sort of things help you into attaining those goals?”

“Well, for one, my family.  Second, my hard working employees.”

While he said this statement, I thought of my encounter with Mr. Furxhiu. Not a lot of owners work in the open like him. Most are behind the scenes. Yet, here is Mr. Furxhiu, right next to the grill behind the counter, the silky black haired gentleman, handing you what comes in a platter, a taste of Mexico.

“Do you have any advice for the new generation of students such as I coming into this world?”

“ Walk the path closest to your righteous heart. Follow it, run towards it till your legs bleed. Then fly.”

I thanked him for his time, guidance and openness. I walked out into the pavement, looked right through the milky vacuum of stars and wondered. “How bright can I shine?”

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Dining with Didier: So Illegal, It’s Good!