Things That Matter

Latino Food Trucks Are Serving Up Some Of The Most Delicious Foods From Coast To Coast

elbochinchemiami / cevichefoodtruck / Instagram

The Latino food truck as we know it today has evolved from its earliest years as a Texas chuckwagon, to the modern version of the iconic street food found in major cities everywhere. You can find a food truck selling just about any cuisine imaginable these days, and Latin cuisine is of course no exception. Below is a list of the 20 best Latin food trucks in the country.

Tex’s Tacos

CREDIT: @texstacos / Instagram

Atlanta, Georgia: Known around town as the “Antonio Banderas of food trucks”, Tex’s Tacos food trucks offers lunch-goers menu items such as Chicken Fresca Tacos, made with a honey lime-brined chicken; classic Carne Asada with “citrus-splashed skirt steak”; as well as sides like “lime fries” and, of course, there is Mexican Coke and Mexican Fanta to wash it all down. Tex’s Tacos brings a great name to a long list of Latin food trucks in the country.

Tender Grill Gourmet Brazilian Kitchen

CREDIT: @tender_grill / Twitter

Los Angeles, California: The first gourmet Brazilian food truck in the City of Angels offers Angelenos Brazilian appetizers like Pao de Quiejo (cheese bread), salads featuring picanha (steak), sandwiches like Catupireza Sandwich (smoked Brazilian sausage) as well as traditional gluten-free Brazilian plates like Herb Marinated Chicken Breast with farofa, and desserts like Mousse de Maracuja (passion fruit mousse).

Cuchifritos Puerto Rican Eatery

CREDIT: cuchifritosfoodtruck.com

Atlanta, Georgia: Hungry folks in Atlanta can get a taste of the island at this Puerto Rican food truck. On the menu are appetizers like Tostones de Platano; a Pernil sandwich, and Chicharrones de Pollo. Cuchifritos also has a virgin Piña Colada to help you daydream about an island vacation while on your lunch break.

La Patrona Food Bus

CREDIT: @patronachicago / Twitter


Chicago, Illinois: La Patrona serves downtown Chicago your typical Mexican-American street fare like elotes and guacamole, and a wide assortment of tacos and tortas.

La Cocinita

@lacocinita / Instagram

Chicago, Illinois: Originating out of New Orleans, La Cocinita food truck offers Chicagoans Latin American street food like arepas, burrito bowls, and the Venezuelan guacamole, guasacaca. This Latin food truck also has a “stupid hot” sauce to douse on your lunch.

Azucar

CREDIT: @foodtruckazucar / Instagram

Dallas, Texas: According to Roaming Hunter, Azucar is one of Dallas’ best kept secrets. With lunch menu offerings like Mayan Taco (frybread topped with beans, rice, an assortment of veggies, and your choice of meat) and loaded burritos, it’s easy to understand why locals would want to keep this Latin food truck to themselves.

The Guava Tree Truck

CREDIT: @guavatreetruck / Instagram

Dallas, Texas: “A Cuban Truckstaurant” that serves up authentic Cuban food in Dallas. Ropa Vieja, Pan con Lechon, and of course Tostones are on the menu. Make sure to check out this Latin food trucks dessert offerings — goodies like Black Bean Cupcakes (with Guava Cream Cheese Frosting), and a White Bean Cupcake (with Dulce de Leche Frosting).

Picanha Steak Truck

CREDIT: @picanhasteaktruck / Instagram

Las Vegas, Nevada: At this Brazilian food truck in Vegas, you’ll find Brazilian fare like Picanha (steak) Fries topped off with an over-easy egg and Picanha’s “famous garlic sauce”, Grilled Shrimp Tacos (with more of that garlic sauce), and a Picanha Steak Sandwich.

Que Sazon

CREDIT: @quesazon_az / Instagram

Phoenix, Arizona: If South American cuisine is what you’re craving, this Phoenix truck should be on your list of great Latin food trucks. Serving Latin-inspired food like chicken empanadas, a side of sweet plantains, and arroz con pollo (classically Latin!), Que Sazon will meet all your street food requirements.

Churros 101

CREDIT: @thechurros101 / Instagram

Las Vegas, Nevada: Who can resist sweet, crunchy comida like a churro. If you’re Las Vegas, be sure to hit up this truck that specializes in churros and nothing but churros.

El Chato Taco Truck

CREDIT: @elchatotacotruck / Instagram

Los Angeles, California: El Chato is known among Los Angeles as a local legend and for good reason. This long-running truck has been serving up Mexican eats on Los Angeles streets since 2006. At El Chato you can expect to find $1 street tacos, both meat-filled and vegetarian burritos, and of course delicious, fresh salsa.

Tumaca Truck

CREDIT: @tumacatruck / Instagram

Los Angeles, California: While Mexican food is represented many times over in L.A.’s food truck scene, (check out more of the L.A. taco truck scene here) Spanish cuisine can not be forgotten. Tumaca Truck is the city’s “first and only traveling purveyor of Barcelona-style sandwiches and tapas.” You’ll find food like Croquetas Ibericas (ham croquettes), Tumaca Fries (potatoes bravas), and of course Spanish Serrano ham sandwiches.

Zema Food Truck

CREDIT: @zematruck / Instagram

Los Angeles, California: You’ll find Latin and Caribbean-inspired cuisine at this food truck. Come hungry and try out a variety of crispy corn griddle sandwiches, arepas stuffed with shrimp, Cachapas (sweet corn pancakes filled with Venezuelan soft cheese, beef, or pork). Wash it all down with beverages like Malta, lemonade made with sugar cane, and red soda “colita.”

Lizarran America Food Truck

CREDIT: @lizarranamerica / Instagram

Miami, Florida: In a city swimming with Cuban cuisine, Lizarran America instead shines a comida spotlight on Spanish-fusion. Lizarran offers a wide assortment of pinchos (or, pintxos, “small snacks”) like Tortilla de Patatas, an octopus and potato puree (the Pulpo a la Gallega), and classic Spanish side dishes like patatas bravas and croquettes.

El Bochinche

CREDIT: @elbochinchemiami / Instagram

Miami, Florida: Colombian cuisine is authentically represented here at this Miami food truck. Street food lovers will find menu items like La Chuleta “The Original” (breaded and fried pork loin), Prime Flank Steak or Sobrebarriga (served with fries and sweet plantains). Be sure to check out the Chuletwist — pork or chicken chuleta served up with fries in a convenient paper cone for a tasty one-handed snack.

Los Viajeros Food Truck

CREDIT: @los_viajeros_foodtruck / Instagram

Manhattan, New York: This Latin fusion (think: Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Mexico) truck is operated and run by a Food Network Chopped champion, so you know the food will be delicious. Hungry New Yorkers can choose from a selection of tacos, and their best-selling burritos, like the El Jefe Burrito (brown rice, Cuban-style steak, sweet plantains, cheese, and jalapeños.

Nuchas

CREDIT: Instagram source: @nuchasnyc

New York City, New York: Featuring an assortment of freshly baked empanadas, or nuchas, Nuchas is a newer Latin food truck that can be found in Times Square, Greeley Square, as well as Brooklyn Borough Hall. Whichever location you hit up, you’ll find empanadas stuffed with things like portobello mushrooms, spicy cheese, and shiitake curry.

Sarah’s Latin Taste

CREDIT: @sarahslatintaste / Instagram

San Jose, California: Roaming the streets of the Bay Area, this Latin food truck offers up South American flavor to hungry folks in cities like Santa Clara and San Jose. Street food lovers can choose from food like the Chicken Milanesa sandwich (crispy, breaded chicken on a ciabatta roll), and Churrasco Plate – tender skirt steak topped with delicious chimichurri and a side of chimi fries.

Ceviche & Co

CREDIT: @cevichefoodtruck / Instagram

San Francisco, California: With a Latin and Ecuadorian influenced menu, this San Francisco Latin food truck serves — you guessed it — ceviche! You will also find comida like grilled steak with chimichurri, and of course plantains and braised pork empanadas.

Tacos La Flaca

CREDIT: Instagram source: @tacoslaflacatruck

Seattle, Washington: Lovers of Mexican food will be happy they checked out this Seattle food truck. Order the Paco’s Tacos if you’re in the mood to mix and match your favorite taco fillings (choose from carne asada, barbaoca, al pastor, lengua, and even tofurizo!). Tacos La Flaca also offers tortas, mulitas, as well as classic Mexican beverages like horchata and Jarritos.


READ: After Getting Shut Down By Cops This Chef Went Guerrilla Style And Opened His Own Food Truck Because Nothing Was Going To Stop His Hustle

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When The Twin Towers Fell Blocks From Her Place Of Work, This Jefa Became Inspired To Turn Her Love For Cooking Tamales Into A Business

Culture

When The Twin Towers Fell Blocks From Her Place Of Work, This Jefa Became Inspired To Turn Her Love For Cooking Tamales Into A Business

@lalomatamales

Evelia Coyotzi is up and on her way to work before 4 A.M. seven days a week to sell her homemade tamales out of her pushcart parked at the corner of Junction Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, Queens.

For 18 years now she’s been serving up a variety of tamales to New Yorkers from 4 A.M. to noon, many lining up to get them before they sell out. Even famed foodie, chef, and TV host Anthony Bourdain included her in an episode of his series Parts Unknown. But it wasn’t just about her food, it was her captivating story as a Mexican immigrant struggling to succeed as a street vendor that makes her an inspiring jefa and hustler.

She grew up in Tlaxcala, Mexico with a single mom and took on the role of caretaker for her siblings.

When her own son was two-years-old she decided to move to the U.S. to try and make more money to support her family. With the help of her brother, who already lived in the States, she was able to become a resident and later her husband joined her. 

She worked for McDonald’s and recalls being two blocks from the Twin Towers on 9/11. The location closed after the attacks and she decided to start selling tamales to make a living. 

She joined the thousands of street vendors that line the streets of NYC to sell her handmade tamales.

Though there are roughly 20,000 street vendors in NYC and it requires food vendors to have a permit, new permits haven’t been issued since a cap placed in 1983. As a result, there are only 3,100 permits available for city-wide food vending carts forcing thousands of street vendors to turn to the black market. Whereas before the cap vendors could get a two-year permit for $200, now vendors like Coyotzi lease them from previous vendors for upwards of $20,000. 

Coyotzi paid $8,000 for a licensed cart which turned out to be fake and told VICE that “she suffered a lot” after more than 15 arrests

She recalls police officers throwing her tamales away because she didn’t have a permit, a common occurrence for street vendors who are fined $1,000 if they don’t have a permit. 

In 2008, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg established 1,000 new permits for Green Carts selling fruits and vegetables but otherwise, no improvements have been made. 

The Street Vending Modernization Act was introduced in 2016 and proposed to double the number of permits over a seven-year span but the momentum waned by the end of 2017. In 2016, the New York Times reported that approximately 2,500 people are currently on the list for full-time permits.

Coyotzi pays $18,000 in the black market for a permit and sells her tamales for $1, working long hours every day to turn a profit and cover the cost of the permit.

In the meantime, Coyotzi and her husband Delfino Garcias, continue the hustle, now with six employees.

The “workday” actually begins at 9 p.m. when one of their employees cleans and prepares the chicken and tortas and then another employee makes the tamales, placing about 150 per bin for steaming for two hours. She also prepares the champurrado, atole, and Arroz con leche. 

They use a makeshift mixer using a drill to mix the masa for the base of the tamale and the fillings are a variety of seven flavors: roasted pepper and chicken, mole and chicken, green salsa and chicken, adobo with pork, pineapple with coconut, sweet tamales with raisins, and Oaxacan tamales. 

She’s barely finished setting up her pushcart before people begin to eagerly line up waiting for her now famous tamales, often selling 2000 every weekend.

Seeing the success she’s achieved and now that her son is already in college studying to become an engineer, she shares that she actually enjoys the work and hopes to one day open a tamale shop. 

“In the future, I want to give other women a chance to become a bigger part of the company if they want to. Because there are women who have been working with me for a while now,” she told VICE in Spanish.  

Watch the full video below!

Street Vending Is Now Decriminalized In All Of California, Easing Fears of Jail Time And Deportation

Things That Matter

Street Vending Is Now Decriminalized In All Of California, Easing Fears of Jail Time And Deportation

laurbanstuff / Instagram

Street vending is as much a part of California as the sunshine and palm trees. Yet, for decades it’s been illegal for sidewalk vendors to operate in the state. Taco carts and fruit stands are mainstays on street corners throughout California yet vendors, many being immigrants and undocumented, have faced fines and misdemeanor criminal charges. Increasingly in the Trump era many have also faced the threat of deportation. But all that has changed as California Gov. Jerry Brown signed bill SB946 to make it easier for sidewalk vendors to operate legally.

California street vendors and their advocates have scored a resounding victory legalizing their work.

Rudy Espinoza, an activist who has worked for years to legalize street vending in Los Angeles, says the newly signed bill opens up socioeconomic opportunities for thousands of vendors across the state. More importantly vendors will be able to sell without fears of misdemeanors or jail time which they previously faced.

“It was hard to find elected officials standing for undocumented people and it became a bigger deal under President Trump,” Espinoza says. “If you got a misdemeanor that would have been enough grounds to get deported if undocumented.”

Espinoza says vendors can still get citations and will still have to get permits and if the city doesn’t have a permit system they need to establish one. Under the act, cities can no longer ban vending in parks, determine where a vendor operates or require vendors to ask permission of nearby businesses — barring any health, safety or welfare issues. The bill is set to go into effect in all California cities beginning Jan. 1.

While there is no database to track how many street vendors there are in California, city officials estimate there are 50,000 vendors in Los Angeles county alone.

Earlier this year, The Los Angeles City Council voted to decriminalize street vending in the city which helped expedite the signing of the bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Espinoza, who worked with the The LA Street Vendor Campaign, applauded the governor’s move congratulating “the thousands of vendors leading this movement.” He says the bill gives people a fair opportunity to start their businesses and be part of the growing food economy in the state.

“It starts with getting a permit then a cart and then hopefully one day they open a brick and mortar store. This bill will go far in helping many vendors dreams come true.” Espinoza says.

What took so long to make street vending legal? Making people understand it’s more than just selling food on streets but a way to make an honest living.

Doug Smith, an attorney at the Public Counsel Law Center, helped craft the legislation and says that the biggest road block was getting people to understand what street vending is about.

“Some people that may not see vending in their own communities were a little skeptical at first but in reality these vendors are just small businesses,” Smith said. “One of the key strategies was to keep reminding people that these are entrepreneurs that have dreams of making their carts into a store one day.”

Smith has worked with The LA Street Vendor Campaign for six years, and says once LA legalized vending his team quickly realized these issues weren’t only central to LA. When working on the bill, he wanted state officials to see that for some people street vending is a full time job.

For undocumented street vendors, the bill legitimizes their business in the eye of the consumer and in written law.

The bill makes three key points that will greatly benefit street vendors that may be undocumented. First, with street vending decriminalized it means that misdemeanors will no longer be given out which prevented some immigrants from applying for certain citizenship programs. Second, it provides retroactive release which means the state shouldn’t have criminalized and charges from past should be dismissed. Lastly, it establishes standards creating a legal permit system that local communities can regulate vending but not off grounds of discrimination.

Many are celebrating this moment for vendors who have sought to legitimize their  business for decades.

Smith says he hopes that other states will look at California and begin legalizing street vending in their states. Street vending creates millions of dollars in revenue not only to local communities but helps create foot traffic in city streets and other small businesses. “Its the first rung for many to move into the economic ladder and this is a way to help keep a roof over their head.” Smith says. “It’s a way to make a living and help their local economy as well.”

More importantly Smith says, street vendors won’t be looked at as blights or conducting illegal work but as entrepreneurs in their own communities making a living.

“Street vendors offer culturally significant items in their community that no one else can provide.” Smith says. “They are part of the fabric of their local communities and with this bill their presence is validated.”

READ: Los Angeles Businesses Will No Longer Be Able To Veto Street Vendors From Setting Up Their Stands On The Sidewalks

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