James and Alexis Banks want to create a welcoming atmosphere for locals and tourists at the Crown B Taqueria in Patagonia. Photo by Aisha Sander

Fans of street tacos in Patagonia have reason to celebrate with the opening of Crown B Taqueria this February at 328 W. Naugle Ave. James and Alexis Banks have remodeled the space that was formerly Mercedes Restaurant and, more recently, MJ’s Restaurant, and have created a menu based on a variety of street tacos. 

Street tacos are smaller tacos intended to be eaten as finger food. Customers will be offered a choice of corn or flour tortillas or lettuce cups filled with carne asada, pork (al pastor), chicken, ground beef, and portobello mushroom and green chili. There will be a ‘fixings’ bar with toppings that include fresh and pickled vegetables and locally made salsa. The couple will also be serving Mexican corn on the cob topped with crema, butter, queso fresca, chili and cilantro. Mexican sourced soda will be available, and the couple is planning to serve alcohol, as well. The restaurant will be open Tues – Thursday, 11a.m. – 7p.m. and Friday, Saturday, 11a.m. – 9p.m, as soon as the liquor license is approved.

The Banks were inspired by their frequent trips to Mexico to focus on this cuisine. “We love street tacos,” Alexis said. They wanted to provide an inexpensive, fast food option for diners in Patagonia. They have remodeled the restaurant and patio area and added a small bar. The couple plans to hire PUHS students and plans to extend their hours on high school game nights to provide a place where players and fans can grab a meal after the games. 

The Banks consider their venture to be a tribute to James’ late father, David Banks, a well-known racehorse trainer. The walls of the dining area are covered with winner’s circle photos of family owned and trained horses and the TVs broadcast live racing. David Banks ran his racing stable on Harshaw Rd. in Patagonia, where Spirit Tree Inn is now located, from 1983 – 1999, when the family moved to Kentucky and then Louisiana. James’ aunt, Virginia Banks Lazenby, who helped to finance the Taqueria, continues to run both flat and steeplechase racehorses at tracks across the country.

The couple both grew up in eastern Santa Cruz County. James attended PUHS, and Alexis grew up in Elgin, the great-granddaughter of Cassie and Clint Mellor, of Canelo. They moved away from the area but returned in 2019 with their three-year-old daughter Sophía. They continue to train horses on their Lake Patagonia property. James, who had worked breaking the young horses in his father’s stables, is now concentrating on team roping horses, while Alexis continues working with barrel horses. 

At the restaurant, James is the chef, while Alexis takes care of the front of the house. Alexis has been involved in the restaurant business for several years. Her first job was at the Steakout in Sonoita. “It’s a dream to have your own place,” she said. “I want this to be the neighborhood ‘Cheers.’ I want the cowboys, the miners, law enforcement, the birdwatchers and the locals to come in and feel welcome.”