Indiana judge rules tacos and burritos are ‘Mexican-style sandwiches’ in zoning dispute

FILE - Image of a plate of Tacos from a local restaurant in Los Angeles.

An Indiana judge has declared that "tacos and burritos are Mexican-style sandwiches," clearing the way for the opening of a new restaurant. 

Martin Quintana, 53, has been trying for about three years to open his second The Famous Taco location in Fort Wayne, a city about 120 miles northeast of Indianapolis. 

The initial written commitment for the development at a plaza Quintana owns limits the business to "a sandwich bar-style restaurant whose primary business is to sell ‘made-to-order’ or ‘subway-style’ sandwiches."

The nearby Covington Creek Association contacted Quintana, stating that his The Famous Taco proposal "somehow ran afoul" of the original commitment. In December 2022, Quintana sued the Fort Wayne Plan Commission after it denied his proposed amendment to allow his restaurant to offer made-to-order tacos, burritos, and other Mexican-style food items.

Allen Superior Court Judge Craig Bobay ruled Monday that the plan commission acted correctly in denying Quintana's proposed amendment. However, the judge also found that Quintana's request was unnecessary, as the original commitment does allow for restaurants like The Famous Taco.

"The Court agrees with Quintana that tacos and burritos are Mexican-style sandwiches, and the original Written Commitment does not restrict potential restaurants to only American cuisine-style sandwiches," Bobay wrote.

"I’m glad this thing is over. We are happy. When you have a decision like this the only thing you can be is happy. We’re excited," Quintana told The Associated Press.

Quintana, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in 1988, has a long history in the restaurant business. He first worked as a farm worker in California before moving into the restaurant industry in Michigan, Chicago, and finally Fort Wayne in 2001. He currently operates another The Famous Taco location in the city, which opened nearly seven years ago.

Quintana plans to open the new family-owned The Famous Taco restaurant in Fort Wayne within two or three months. Like his existing location, the new restaurant will allow customers to choose their favored toppings for tacos, burritos, or tortas assembled by eatery staff.

"You know, that’s a sandwich, that’s bread. That’s a sandwich," Quintana said of tortas. "We go through a lot of those."

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.