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An Indelible Love of Free Tacos

April 20, 1999|NANCY WRIDE

When Martha Sanchez hung a sign in the family restaurant window--free lunch for life if you get tattooed with our logo--her siblings never expected a taker.

But as of Friday, 40 customers had had Jimmy the Cornman (a cartoon-like boy in a sombrero, straddling a rocket-shaped corn cob) permanently inked on their flesh. Photographs outside the Casa Sanchez taqueria in San Francisco show Jimmy in a male armpit and Jimmy on the feminine hind of a 65-year-old professor.

"The one Latino guy who got the tattoo is from Spain--the rest are mostly white American men--and that guy, he dropped his pants on the bus yesterday to show it to the riders, because somebody was talking about hearing the story on the radio," said Martha Sanchez, manager of the restaurant her grandfather founded 75 years ago in the heavily Latino Mission District.

It is estimated that the restaurant could spend as much as $5.8 million should every tattooed customer try dining daily. While the family has held to their unqualified promise, they will cap the offer at 50 free lunch diners.

None of the tattooed diners has abused the hospitality, Martha Sanchez said, which does carry one hitch: "It makes them an honorary Sanchez, which means we get to go to their house and raid their refrigerator."

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