Ruberry Salsa: A popular tent in Palm Springs turns into a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Palm Desert
A popular vendor in the city parlayed a loyal following — and delicious tacos — into a brick-and-mortar location 15 miles away. Like many who followed a similar path, the owners give credit to VillageFest.-
You don’t have to go far in Palm Springs to find a good taco. But these days it’s not rare to see people from the city venture 15 miles out of town just for a taste of Ruberry Salsa. Terry and Ruben De La Rosa’s food is just that good.
The name is a fusion of their first names, much like their food that’s a fusion of their two favorite cuisines: Mexican and Asian food.
When you hear another taco shop is opening in the valley, you think you know what you’re in for: tacos al pastor, chicken tacos, and plenty of rice and beans on the side. But that’s not the case here.
“People walk by, and they see the banner says ‘Tacos.’ But once they see the sign with the menu, they stop in their tracks,” Terry says proudly.
There’s a reason for that. It’s hard to find menu items like chicken wasabi, Korean, or Hawaiian tacos elsewhere in the valley. Terry and her husband saw a need for a fusion of Asian and Mexican cuisine, and they leaped at the opportunity.
It all started in 2019 when Terry was laid off from her bartending job.
Terry said when that happened, she thought, “I don’t want to go and keep working for other people.”
She and her husband came up with the idea to sell some of their homemade salsa that’s so popular among their family members.
Her husband thought they should sell tacos too, and he was inspired by the shows he watched on Food Network that featured unexpected fusion restaurants.
“We just put together a whole menu and started at VillageFest,” she says.
At first, it was just a side business to make some extra cash to make up for Terry’s lost income. Business was slow at first, but word quickly spread, and soon Ruberry Tacos became a must-eat vendor.
“Slowly but surely, we started becoming one of the longest lines at VillageFest.”
Terry credits the Thursday evening event with giving her and her husband a way to start their business at a lower cost of entry. They were able to build up a loyal customer base first, instead of facing the daunting task of starting from scratch with a brick-and-mortar restaurant and all the overhead costs that come with opening a restaurant.
Ruberry isn’t the first business to make the leap to a brick-and-mortar location after a successful showing at VillageFest. The Heydey at the Hilton is considered one of the best burgers in the valley. Its owners also got started at VillageFest.
“The Heydey were set up right next to us at VillageFest,” Terry remembers. “We would trade our tacos for their burgers.”
After the success of Ruberry at VillageFest, they were quickly approached by Hair of the Dog pub in South Palm Springs. They wanted Ruberry to set up outside the bar to satiate the late-night cravings of their customers.
“As soon as all the bars start closing, all the other customers, even at other bars, start running to Hair of the Dog to get our tacos,” she says.
Then the pandemic hit, and VillageFest, as well as most late-night partying, was no more. Ruberry partnered with Hair of the Dog and continued selling food there because, at that time, the only way a bar could remain open was if it also sold food.
“We both needed help, and when that came about, it was a blessing,” says Terry.
As restrictions eased, Terry and Ruben started to think about opening their own restaurant.
“People would come up to us and ask us where we’re located, and we didn’t have a physical place with tables and chairs that was our own,” Terry explains. “And now we do.”
It took them a while to find just the right spot, but they landed on the location of the former El Paseo Grill near the busy intersection of Highway 111 and Monterey in Palm Desert. The doors opened just a few weeks ago.
It’s been a difficult adjustment scaling up from VillageFest. Hiring is slow, and now they have more overhead to worry about in addition to keeping up their presence at VillageFest and Hair of the Dog. But Terry is relentlessly confident in her food because she hears from customers how unique their tacos are.
“I wouldn’t go through these long hours and lose sleep if we didn’t believe in it. And we believe in it because of our customers. It’s so motivating when you hear people say, ‘This is the best taco I’ve ever had! It’s so different!’ They’re excited.,” Until they’re fully staffed, you will likely see Terry or Ruben operating the cash register or in the back cooking.
Neither Terry nor her husband has any culinary background, they’re just making food that they love making for themselves and their family.
Eating at Ruberry Taco feels like you’re stepping into their kitchen at home; it’s a personal experience.
That’s Terry’s theory of marketing, too, “I don’t have to do any advertising. Our customers are our best advertisers, they’ll post us on Instagram and tag us, and we’ve had so many people find us that way.” There’s nothing more authentic than some good old-fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations.