Remembering Dodie

Dodie — the man who brought breakfast burritos to Westport — died Monday.

If you’re a true Westporter, you knew Dodie.  Officially he was Deodoro Perez, but — like Cher or Pele — all he needed was one name.

And one restaurant:  Tacos or What?


For a couple of decades, that place — his and his wife’s place — was one of those funky spots that made Westport special.

Other towns and cities had Taco Bell.  We had Tacos or What?

It wasn’t health food, that’s for sure.  The Notorious B.I.Gwich was a modified chicken jamwich with refried beans.  The Chimi Hendrix combined the excesses of Mexican food with the musician for whom it was punnily named.

But who cared?  Tacos or What? served the best food anywhere, generations of Staples students, lawn maintenance guys and lawyers would say, and that’s why the tiny wooden shack next to the Shell station was always filled.  And why everyone left with a satisfied smile, a full stomach, and a napkin wiping their lips.

The biggest smile belonged to Dodie.  He acted like he had the best job in the world — probably because he thought he did.

Most people had no idea Tacos or What? was only half of his day.

He worked as hard at construction as he did at his restaurant.  “He’d get there at 6 a.m. to fire up the grill,” said longtime customer, employee and friend Dan Towers.  “Then he’d leave at 6:30 for a construction job.  But he’d be back constantly to check.  He loved whatever he did.”

Dan loved working for Dodie.  “I dyed my hair pink in 1994, and my dad said no one would ever hire me,” Dan recalled.  “The next day Dodie offered me a job.”

Dan worked at Tacos or What? — off and on — for many years.

“Dodie was absolutely loyal,” he said.  “Everything was so positive — he always had a smile on his face.  He’d do anything for you.”

Dodie enjoyed playing his guitar, writing music and singing.  Giff Foster met Dodie 30 years ago, in Don Elliott’s Weston recording studio.

“He loved music and women — but his real love was Tacos or What?” Giff said.

“It was a cult classic.  You’d see kids there, cops, Johnny Winter’s band  — it was a magnet.  And the food was great — reasonably priced, different from all the rest.”

After Tacos or What? closed, Dan Towers painted houses and did construction work with Dodie.  More importantly, he hung out at Dodie and his wife Kathy’s Bridgeport home several times a week.

A couple of years ago, Dodie brought the breakfast burrito back to Christie’s on Cross Highway.  Of course, he kept doing construction work too.

Recently, Giff said, Dodie was excited about the possibility of opening a new Tacos or What? just a bit down the Post Road from the old location.

“I don’t know anyone who knew Dodie who wouldn’t call him a friend,” Dan said.  “He lived life like he died — young.  He had a real young spirit.”

Dodie’s countless friends were stunned by his death — apparently of a heart attack.

They’ll be equally surprised to learn he was 60 years old.

Dodie seemed — no, he was — ageless.

(Dodie Perez will be buried in his native Texas, next to his father.  A memorial service may be held here Saturday — watch “06880” for details.)

36 responses to “Remembering Dodie

  1. Oh no.. what a nice nice man.

  2. I ate breakfast and lunch there, every day for three years… Taco’s or What was the Best. Dodie had so many young people working really well together and the mix of food, people from all walks of life, enjoying the unique blend of food and fun, it was truly a special place and Dodie was a special kind of person. What a shocker, you will be sorely missed Dodie, no one made a breakfast burrito as well as you!

  3. Amazing man….learned so many life lessons from Dodie, as did many of his employees, friends, and customers…Rest in peace my old/young friend….Thank you Dan Woog for remembering Dodie!!!

  4. The Dude Abides

    Indeed, thank you Dan. I befriended Dodie when he was at Christie’s while our kitchen was being renovated. He was,at heart, a good ole Texas boy and I had spent 30 years there. He could cook Tex-Mex like no other in the vicinity. Always a smile on his face and enjoying life. Sad. He will be missed. Good guy.

  5. That you for your awesome post on my Mom’s cousin. My family is very grateful to you.

  6. Dodie was the nicest guy in all of Westport. And he always hired lots of local high school kids both at “Tacos or What” and at “Christie’s”.

  7. Dan – Thank you very much for publishing this tribute to Dodie. We knew him well through our son (Dan Towers) and he did major remodeling work for us. As you say, he was a perenially cheerful, warm, and helpful person even under imperfect conditions. He will be missed. Please do note the details for a memorial service.
    Rick Towers

  8. Dodie was one of those guys you just knew you’d like from the moment you met him. I did just that when I met him in 1993 at Don Elliott’s studio in Weston. When I needed a little extra dough, he offered me a job at Tacos. I didn’t work there long and I probably spent more time and money eating at Taco’s than I did working there, but the food was great and I was particularly fond of the “breakfast burrito”. Before then, I’d never had eggs, bacon, cheese and hot salsa in a wrap. From the moment I tasted it, I knew I’d be having a lot more of those happy breakfasts. Much like Dodie himself, always a smile and I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone ever. You just knew instantly that he was a friend. You will be missed, brother.

  9. Dodie helped do a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s in my backyard. Dodie and his gang, Coach P and the Staples football team pitched in and we raise around $20,000. Dodie was truly a GOOD GUY!!!!!!!! Also, my father was originally from Live Oak, Texas. He walked into “Tacos Are What” on one visit here and heard Dodie speak. He immediately said: “You are my neck of the woods, sir!” And Dodie laughed. He had born 10 miles from my father’s home. Small world. Big heart.

  10. Dodie was the man. I remember when TorW catered our senior class party. It was epic.

    Giff – you’re the man too! I remember listening to Davis Coen with Giff on the base. Just doesn’t get any better.

    TorW used to be Charpontier’s right? I remember that place being pretty good too. What is in that building now?

  11. Pete O'Reilly

    Great article, Dan. Dodie’s greatest accompishment was the unique community he created with Tacos or What?. I’ll always be grateful to him for it.

  12. Border Grill I think? They should change the name back to Tacos or What. Much cooler name.

  13. Tacos or What was a frequent breakfast stop on my way to Staples. I lived on Maple Avenue South and Tacos or What was not only delicious, but cheap and convenient. Somehow even after 15 years in Texas, I still missed the breakfast tacos at Tacos or What.

  14. i’m said to know that he’s gone. Tacos or What? was a throwback to Westport’s earlier, roaring 20s eclectic days. What a diverse crowd hung out there! I have fond memories working for Dodie and Kathy. It’s an ironic and fitting legacy for Dodie that a generation of Westporters will look back on their formative years and recall eating burritos at a little taco shack on the Post Rd.

  15. I have so many great memories of Dodie and Tacos or What. Pete is right, By making Tacos or What such an inviting place to be, and with his friendly smile and great food, Dodie created an entire community of people that loved him and loved being there. Dodie’s legacy will make anyone who knew him better for it. I will certainly miss him.

  16. I did not know Dodie well, but saw him frequently at the Elliott’s. He was one of the easiest going persons I’ve ever met, always a smile, and always willing to help out or do a favor. I do know that Dodie had a great sense of humor and a playful spirit; one day this past fall I kept hearing a “ping, ping” sound, when I walked out onto Doris Elliott’s upper deck and looked down, there was Dodie with a handful of acorns trying to “make baskets” by tossing them up into an empty flower pot. Dodie, I’m truly going to miss you.

  17. Susan Cordill

    I only met Dodi once and that was at my son’s wedding to his lovely niece here in Austin, Texas. We liked him and Kathy instantly. His fabulous smile and that wonderful ponytail were unforgettable. He was loved so much by his Texas family too. Your loving article touched my heart, thank you. My two year old granddaughter, his great niece, will cherish it someday.

    Susan Cordill

  18. Arthur Habighorst

    I worked at “Tacos” for almost two years, after leaving my very short, two-week stint at The Gap (first job ever, leaving “Tacos” as number two). I found my calling there for a high school student, with awesome people, awesome food, always a fun time, and always a great crowd. Dodie was an incredible man to me, always carrying an inviting smile, greeting me with a firm handshake, and always a great source of conversation. I will miss Dodie greatly, and I will miss his always-positive attitude. All I can say now is, Dodie, I’m proud to have known you and upset that you’ve passed on. Regardless, I know you’re in good hands now, and I wish you all the best. I’ll see you down the line. Cheers!

    P.S. Thanks for teaching me how to cook, it comes in handy every now and then.

  19. Thanks Dan for the wonderful words about Dodie. I met Dodie almost 30 years ago, at Don Elliotts recording studio. I still can’t believe he’s no longer with us. We’re looking for a place to hold a service here in Faircon next saturday. If you have any suggestions, please call me. I’m thinking VFW in Westport, The Black Duck or Longshore. Aloha to all, Giff

  20. It is impossible for me to think of Dodie without a big smile on his face. I moved from Westport 12 years ago and still sport the Taco’s Texas magnet on my fridge. Thank you for all the memories, RIP Dodie.

  21. Billy Nistico

    Thanks Dan for such a great tribute. He was a friend to all and had an incredibly kind spirit. He will always be remembered.

  22. Colleen Brinkey

    Dodie always treated everyone with love…and as mentioned a huge heartwarming smile. We all learned so much from him and I, like many others, am appreciative of time spent working with him at Tacos or What. I am so saddened by his passing and I’m sending love to his family and friends.

  23. Renwick St. James

    Back in ’08 when Doris could still speak and use the phone but had only a tiny short-term memory, she got Dodie over here to fix something, then couldn’t remember what it was. We both tried to figure it out but failed and he went home. At 10 p.m. that night, I went into Doris’s bathroom and there was a FLOOD coming down from the upstairs bathroom. I ran upstairs but couldn’t budge the shut off valves. I called Dodie and he was there in half an hour to save us.
    But my favorite memories of Dodie were his visits Doris, climbing right onto the bed to kiss her. She couldn’t say his name, but she knew him and would laugh and pat his head.
    I still can’t believe we won’t see him anymore.

  24. Ellen Bradshaw

    Dodie joined our family when he married Kathleen many moons ago….Taco’s or What became a home-away- from home for our children, Caitlin, John and Sassy. Dodie was a generous, patient and loving uncle and brother in law. Too young, and too soon, he will be missed.

  25. Westport was a great place to grow up but it would have been far, far less great without Tacos…to me…unimaginable. Its amazing to think of how the entire Tacos or What? community became such good friends. Noone could have predicted that. Going there was like a state of mind. Incredible food was key to the whole equation. Tacos is a beacon in my memory of when not quite everything in Westport had fallen victim to the almighty bottom line. In these times where our culture is filled with negativity, terror, and poor quality experiences delivered for top dollar…be more like Dodie… do something of good quality and that you believe in…you never know how much peace and harmony you may incite.

  26. The Dude Abides

    Do we have any details on the memorial service???????????

  27. Nancy Purcell

    When I worked for Dodie at Christies, he me he told me he would be the easiest boss I would ever had. He was a great guy and a nice boss. He also had an infectuous smile!! He had such a love for music, we loved playing name that tune in the kitchen. When we got satalite radio, in the morning Dodie would start out with music from the 40s and 50s then through out the day bumping it up a decade every couple of hours. He was great with numbers and food. The breafast burrito will for every be linked to our dear Dodie. Rest in peace Dodie. xoxo

  28. So sad to lose Dodie. I worked at Tacos or What? for two years while I was in high school, and to this day Dodie was the best boss I have ever had! He was a very sweet man. He was always very generous and never judgemental of anyone. I will miss him dearly.

  29. I met Dodie back in the 8o’s and ate my breakfast,lunch,and dinner at Taco’s or What every day. Dodie was the kind of person you would meet and could not wait to go back and talk to him because the conversation was so cool. I moved to Florida in 99 and never had a breakfast burrito again, I did though wake up at 3:00am craving a burrito from Dodie all the time. I have not talked to Dodie in a long time and to hear of this loss I am shocked. R.I.P my friend

  30. Pingback: Dodie’s Memorial Service Set For This Sunday | 06880

  31. As you mentioned – Dodie also did construction. He was incredibly reliable always there whenever you needed help. He was always appreciative of the work and took great pride in everything he did. Our dogs would love to see him come to our home and always kept him company! My wife and I were stunned to hear the news of his untimely passing. He will truly be missed.

  32. Maggie Sherman

    You are so missed. May your spirit always live within our hearts.

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  34. dave pearcy

    i met dodie in charlotte nc in 1980. we jammed in a band called the turbos and hung out till one day he boarded a plane to europe then a year later returned to the usa to a town called westport. he met don elliott and the next thing i know we are recording. this session led dodie and me on a life changing journey to texas in a beat up subaru he nicknamed lightning…we were even chased by a tornado. at the time i wanted to be a rockstar…dodie taught me that in spite of myself, God’s will would be a better path. from that moment, one night in a shopping mall parking lot, i stopped trying to be a diva, dodie opened my eyes to a peace and future that led me to 27 years as a musician that included gigs with 100,000 people to the two drunks at the bar at 2 am calling for free bird. great fun but the most important moments were when i was able to comfort folks that had lost a loved one with music, charity events have even helped people in nicaragua. if i ever learned middle c i’m sure that this was God’s purpose. that night, years ago with dodie, influenced my life in a huge way and i pass this on to people all the time. dodie, kathy i love you both, i heard the news july of last year, and even though the reply is so late in coming, i just want to say what a great thing you have done in my life. God bless

  35. Darryl Pettway

    I am saddened to hear of Dodie’s passing. I woke up today craving one of his breakfast burritos. I decided to Google him, and see if he was still at Christie’s. This is how I came upon the heartbreaking news. I ran into him at Stop & Shop in Bridgeport, about two years ago. That is when he told me about Christie’s. Before that, I hadn’t seen Dodie since Tacos Or What closed. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to see him at the new spot. In the Tacos Or What days, he was always super nice and offered great conversation. Dodie was truly one of the nicest people on the Earth. He will be greatly missed. Rest In Peace, Buddy !!!