Now she’s top dog

Mayra Becerra

Photo by Mason Masis

After working in restaurants her entire life, Mayra Becerra decided it was time to own her own. Her surprise opportunity, she says, came when Mark Mendez, the former owner of Bulldog Taqueria on Second Street in downtown Chico, was looking to sell. Becerra, an Oroville resident, had worked for Mendez in his other Bulldog locations—the original, in Oroville, and the other on Nord Avenue in Chico—for the last three years. She jumped on the opportunity to be her own boss and bring her own brand of authentic Mexican food to Chico. A Tijuana native, Becerra has done just about every restaurant job imaginable in her 22 years in the industry, she said. She first moved to the U.S. in 1990, arriving first in San Francisco and then moving to Oroville in 2003. Hoping to spice things up in the local Mexican cuisine scene, Becerra says she will try to break the mold of Northern California Mexican food by enriching her dishes with straight-from-Mexico flavors and knowledge she gained from her mother. Most notably, she plans on toasting all vegetables and chilies to unleash their flavor potential. Still settling into her new role—she just bought the place last month—Becerra says she’s not yet decided on a new name but to stay tuned.

What’s different now that you own a restaurant instead of being an employee?

[There’s a] huge difference. I have to work twice as much, mentally and physically, since I’m here opening until close. It’s a whole lot of hard work … [but] I never thought I’d have this opportunity. I’m really happy about it.

Was it your dream to one day own a restaurant?

I’ve worked my whole life in restaurants and I said, “One day I’m gonna have my own restaurant.” It [happened] really, really fast. Mark told me he was gonna put it up for sale and asked if I wanted it, and I said yeah.

What changes can we expect?

I need to make the menu smaller, more simple. I think simple is the best … I have to know what items sell. I’m gonna change the meat. The chicken will stay the same, but the asada I’m going to change. I’m going to put out another hot sauce. Right now I only have two, but I’m going to put out a fire sauce, like a really spicy sauce.

Will that spice be unique to Chico?

I’m gonna try to put more Mexican spices on everything. Most of the time I call the Mexican food in Northern California “Mexicana” because it’s a combination of the flavor of Mexico and NorCal.