Joining the ranks of lauded young entrepreneurs around the country, San Diego’s own Alexander Adler, co-founder of Puesto has been named on the prestigious Forbes’ “30 under 30” list for 2019.
After founding the wildly popular Mexican restaurant at age 19 with his brothers Eric and Alan Adler, along with cousins Isidoro and Moy Lombrozo in 2012, Alexander attended New York University, and worked at Google and Facebook, gaining priceless knowledge and experience in advertising, social media, and marketing.
Now at just 25 years old, Alexander and his brothers have expanded the restaurant brand to multiple locations with six restaurants and 1,200 seats around California. Alexander is in good company on the list among local entrepreneurs. Last year’s Food & Drink accolades included San Diego distiller Laura Johnson.
PACIFIC caught up with the busy entrepreneur to find out more about Puesto’s founding and inspiration, the taco every guest has to try, and his favorite taco and cocktail pairing.
PACIFIC: What was your reaction when you found out you would be on the Forbes “30 Under 30" list?
ALEXANER ADLER: Honestly I was beyond surprised. We’ve been in this seven years, and it was rewarding and a nice segue into the U.S. and the world knowing about the awesome things we do. I’m really proud of the team we have here.
How did you go from NYU, Facebook, and Google to opening a taco restaurant?
Puesto began my senior year of high school; my brothers were back from college. The background is we are Mexican, our parents were born in Mexico, we love the cuisine, and we had known our chef and partner (Luisteen Gonzalez) for a long time. The type of tacos and Mexican cuisine we loved fit in. So working at these companies was a strategic way to learn paid advertising, and I used what I learned and applied it to Puesto. Now I’m back here full time.
How did you guys come up with name?
It’s associated with a type of cart on the streets in Mexico and it can be any kind of food vendor. We thought about, “Where do you find the best tacos in Mexico?” (And the answer was) on the street.
Do you have a memorable taco story?
Our chef and partner (Luisteen Gonzalez) was doing catering, and was loved by the community. The experience of the chicken al pastor with crispy cheese wrap and avocado was so big it moved us into the restaurant industry.
What’s the inspiration for the Puesto menu?
It’s evolved, and after seven years, it’s a combo of the whole team. We take creativity and what people want in different locations and anyone who wants to voice their opinion. It is then polished by our executive chef, Luisteen Gonzalez, and creative chef Katy Smith.
What’s a taco a Puesto newbie has to try?
The filet mignon wrapped in crispy melted cheese with pistachio jalapeño salsa.
What’s the most popular thing on the menu? Are you surprised?
The filet mignon taco. It goes to what we expected with elevating the carne asada. Puesto on many levels tries to elevate, and change the concept of Mexican food done poorly.
Favorite taco and tequila or mezcal pairing?
Chicken Al Pastor with all the fixings, crispy melted cheese, hibiscus and chipotle tinga, avocado, and piña habanero pico paired with our What We’re Having margarita. It’s funny because we joke that it should be the Presidential Margarita because we had a former president come in and like it.
You now have six restaurants and over 700 employees. Did you ever think it would get this big?
I think we always had the dream. The steps to get there were so amazing, trials and errors, and moving from fast casual to full service. Our goal has always been to share excellent tacos. It’s given us a bigger platform to share it.
What’s next for you?
I think what makes Puesto so great is it is family run, and we want to keep that dynamic. Our expansion is based on our own accord, and there are a couple of locations in the pipeline, but we don’t have a timeline. We want to focus on the experience, that’s the most important thing.
Downtown: 789 W Harbor Dr., 619.233.8880; La Jolla: 1026 Wall St., La Jolla, 858.454.1260, https://eatpuesto.com