Taco truck postmortem

Thanks to everyone who came out Friday for tacos. The perfect weather and near-saturation coverage on KFRU drove hundreds to our little downtown experiment. I figured we’d sell about 250 plates if we were lucky and that’s almost exactly where we came in. The end result: $1,600 in sales and, once food was paid for, almost $1,000 to be turned over to Family Counseling Center.

As for the food, I think we did pretty well. We were really happy with the carnitas. The volume of pork (85lbs) and the fact that it was bone-in necessitated roasting them whole, then pulling and letting them sit for a day in their roasting liquid (lots of orange juice, lime juice, onions and garlic). So they were shredded pork tacos, rather than true carnitas, but they were also really, really good.

The beans (from a farm near Hillsboro and purchased from The Root Cellar at $2.29/lb.) were soaked overnight and simmered with onion, garlic, cumin and chili powder. They retained a nice texture all day and I would definitely turn to them again for a crowd.

The rice? Well, the rice was a bit of an ordeal. Unlike beans and shredded pork – which good-naturedly put up with reheating and long times at temperature – rice eventually breaks down. Early on, it was good enough. Nothing amazing, but Mexican rice never, ever is. The stuff even sucks in Mexico. But as we entered the third hour of service things really went downhill. One pan turned gloopy, a new one was still crunchy. Eventually we 86ed the item and pitched it. Too bad, because the rice was a big pain in the ass.

And then the worst of the bunch: the tortillas. They were a shitshow; exactly what you’d expect buying in bulk from Sam’s. Flaky and cheap-tasting, we were a little embarrassed to serve on them. Yes, we had to by 1,000 – so price counted a lot – but I think we could’ve done better. It didn’t help that our options for heating the tortillas were, a) steam table or b) microwave. Early on the steam table showed itself to not be a viable option, rendering the tortillas even more fragile and useless. The microwave was better, but nothing like a griddle or gas burner could’ve done. We did what we could.

But overall, it went pretty well. We raised lots of money, weren’t left with loads of food and even managed to have a good time. The atmosphere was pretty festive; Los Lobos and Buena Vista Social Club playing, the sun shining, a bunch of suits and law students sitting on a low wall eating tacos. People asked if we were there every week (uh, no). Columbia is pretty clearly hungry for some new options and willing – at least given pristine weather and massive radio promotion – to support a food truck serving decent grub. A few customers pulled Lisa (owner of the truck) aside, inquiring about food truck logistics, expenses, etc. Don’t be surprised if you hear rumors of more trucks opening soon.

To the parties who made taco truck possible – especially Lisa Nichols of Fat Chicks Chow Wagon for the truck and help, Patchwork Family Farms for working with us on our pork purchase and La Terraza for donating two gallons of great salsa – thank you. To Ryan for helping prep and for churning out tacos with me. There are others deserving of recognition who have requested to remain anonymous. To them a big thanks as well. Thanks also to my parents, who served as cashiers and condiment-refreshers. Amy Swiney took some nice shots of the action and the food for a nice post at The CoMo Collective.

As for an encore, Lisa was already talking about a repeat performance sometime. Stay tuned…


Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

4 thoughts

  1. Taco truck was awesome. The food was fantastic (glad I got there early for rice) and it was all for a good cause. I look forward to any future recurrences!

  2. Nice work raising all that money! I can’t imagine cooking that much volume of food…not an easy task. And I agree Columbia (or at least this resident of Columbia) would be thrilled with a regular taco truck lunch option-

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