Diving into Taco Sauce

Friday, November 19, 2010

When Lonna Stenger Christenson ’94 St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud State with a degree in criminal justice, she had no idea that one day she’d be bottling southwest sauce. But that’s exactly what she and her husband, Dan, owners of D & L Taco Gringo, Clearwater, are doing.

Their Taco Gringo Southwest Sauce is being mass-produced and sold in several Central Minnesota grocery stores, including Byerly’s, Coborn’s and Cash Wise stores.

“It’s just flying off the shelves,” Lonna Christenson said of the sauce that the couple has been using in its Mexican restaurant for the past three years.

The Christensons dreamed of the sauce, literally, in part because of their love of vacationing in Mexico. They enjoyed a similar sauce in restaurants there, but couldn’t find anything like it back home.

One morning Dan Christenson woke up and told his wife he dreamed of the sauce that they would eventually produce.

  After working in the criminal justice field for seven years, Lonna Christenson was looking for a different field that would allow her more time with the couple’s two children. The couple talked about opening a restaurant and Clearwater was chosen because it didn’t have a Mexican restaurant.

“The first year and a half was a struggle, but this past summer business was fantastic,” Lonna Christensen said.

As for the sauce, it’s going gangbusters.

“We put it on everything we serve here,” she said.

The sauce’s unique, ranch flavoring and touch of zestiness is what allows it to stand out from other sauces on the market, she said. “It sells itself.”

The process has been a learning experience, from creating a recipe to hiring a graphic designer to create the label to sampling the product in local grocery stores. “I learn something every day,” Lonna Christensen said.

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