Jeff Pitroff has heard amazing, inspirational stories during his time as the operations manager of the nonprofit Tacos Libertad.
“One of the biggest things I’ve seen is that, in today’s world, it’s nice to see how many nice people are out there doing amazing things for these amazing groups of people,” Pitroff says.
“I’ve met some incredible individuals. It’s heartwarming.”
Owned by Cohn Restaurant Group, Tacos Libertad has donated more than $100,000 to charity since opening its doors in 2017.
“We’re thrilled to have surpassed $100,000 in donations and excited to build upon the momentum,” says Lesley Cohn, owner. “Both David (Cohn) and I grew up in philanthropic families and their generosity to those in need has always been an inspiration to us. Both our children and grandchildren volunteer in the community as they have been taught that giving is more rewarding than receiving.”
Located in the heart of Hillcrest, Tacos Libertad is celebrated for more than its classic and fusion tacos. Each month, the team selects a different charitable beneficiary to donate 100% of its profits to. Previous organizations include Meals on Wheels and Rady Children’s Hospital.
“It’s exciting for us,” Pitroff says. “We guarantee a minimum of $3,000 to each group. Our biggest check went to Rady Children’s Hospital’s Center for Gender-Affirming Care during Pride Month in July. We raised $11,734.”
Through the end of January, 100% of the profits will go to Challenged Athletes Foundation for athletes with disabilities. The charities are chosen by an anonymous board.
“My position, as an operations manager, is once the advisory board selects the charity, we have an anonymous board who selects the charity,” Pitroff says.
“The board selects the charities and submit them to me. I take over from there. I get the great job of telling them they’ve been selected. We keep it really, really simple for the foundation so they don’t have to do a lot of work.”
Pitroff helps organize a kickoff party for the organization and the marketing team provides collateral.
“The month goes by and about 45 days after the month closes, I get the second lucky job of letting them know we closed our books, we meet with them and we have one of those big, giant checks,” he says.
“We take photos in front of the restaurant and hand over a check to them as well. We encourage them to take group photos and stay and buy tacos for the next charity.”
Among Pitroff’s favorite tacos is the duck confit tacos with Oaxaca cheese, bleu cheese, caramelized onions, balsamic reduction and arugula, all in a corn tortilla ($4.50). He also enjoys the grilled avocado, with grilled avocado with cilantro, onions, lime, drizzle of olive oil and cotija cheese, all in a corn tortilla ($3.50).
“They’re fantastic,” he says. “The avocado taco is a little warm, but then you bite into the avocado, which is cool on the inside. I love the texture and the homemade corn tortilla.”
In the heart of Hillcrest, Tacos Libertad tends to be busiest from midnight to 2:30 a.m., after the bars let out.
“Some nights we close at midnight, but when all the bars let out, there’s a huge line at the taco shop,” Pitroff says. “Behind it is a French Parisian-inspired speakeasy. You can walk through the cooler door and into this beautiful speakeasy. You can grab your tacos and go back there and enjoy your tacos in the speakeasy.”
While the entrees are important, so are the charities. Pitroff has been moved.
“One story that really stands out to me is when we worked with the California Innocence Project. They work on exonerating people who have been wrongly committed,” Pitroff says.
“I met a gentleman who spent about 16 to 18 years in prison. He was wrongly committed and released. He was released in time to walk his daughter down the aisle. His wife stood by his side during the whole thing. It was incredible.”
He was freed thanks to DNA evidence that came to light as the practice became more common.
“It was unbelievable,” Pitroff says. “I asked him, ‘How can you not be angry?’ He said it was amazing. He said he knew eventually he would be released and that, ‘Now that I’m a free man again, life is way too short to be angry.’”
Tacos Libertad, 1023 University Avenue, Hillcrest, 619.481.5035, cohnrestaurants.com/tacoslibertad, 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesdays, 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays, 2 p.m. to midnight Sundays.