Early in the morning of April 1, owner/manager Andra Doll stands outside her Baja Taco bus in preparation for the beginning of another season of legendary Mexican food. Dick Shellhorn photo

The first of April is best known as April Fool’s Day and is celebrated all around the world as a day to pull pranks and jokes on others.

Its origins are unknown, but some believe it started with the Roman tradition of Hilaria, a spring festival held around March 25 in honor of the vernal equinox, the first day of the year longer than the night, which typically falls on March 20.

Festivities included games, processions and masquerades, during which disguised commoners could imitate nobility foolishly.

A few Cordovans pull pranks on April 1, but most of them have the date circled on their calendar for a much more important reason — that’s the day that Baja Taco opens. Famous for its broad menu of Mexican specialties, as well as scrumptious milkshakes and an array of delightful beverages, locals wait all winter for the classic red bus to emerge from the snow and owner/manager Andra Doll to switch on the “open” sign.

By noon on April 1, the interior seating at Baja Taco was packed and the parking lot was overflowing. Dick Shellhorn photo

Baja Taco was established in 1989 by former owner Liz Pudwill. It was originally just an old bus that was outfitted as a kitchen. It all started when Liz went on a vacation to Baja and had her first fish taco. It was so good, she said “I’m going to sell these in Cordova,” and she did.

Doll, the current owner, has worked there for 20 years, and purchased it from Pudwill in 2007. She has gradually expanded the outside and inside seating as well as the menu, while maintaining the quality and service that make it so unique.

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Running a small business in Cordova has its challenges, including getting supplies here in a timely fashion, hiring and training staff, and keeping aging facilities running. Doll was down at Baja at 5:30 a.m. for a 11 a.m. inaugural opening on April 1 this year, and was slammed with customers for much of the day, which ended at 8 p.m.

The fact that the opening day just happened to be on a Saturday and it was a bright sunny day had something to do with it, but it was the food, efficiency and her marvelous cheerful vibe that continues to have Cordovans calling the first of April “Baja Taco Day.”

Thanks Andra. My wife said the carnitas were as good as ever, and as expected my milkshake was so thick and creamy I couldn’t get it through the straw until it melted a bit.

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Dick Shellhorn
Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at [email protected].