The food truck fad has rolled up and parked in Phoenix.
These mobile restaurants, which provide everything from Latin American cuisine to standard American fare like hot dogs and grilled cheese, provide culinary convenience at festivals, concerts and other community events like Phoenix’s First Friday.
ASU’s Tempe Campus has recently started to host a gaggle of food trucks every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the corner of Sixth Street and College Avenue, allowing students to enjoy a variety of different cuisines right outside their classrooms.
Xanise Twinn, who often dines at the Tempe food trucks, believes they are a great addition to the student community.
“They are convenient and can move at any time,” she says. “It would be great to have more at ASU, especially because it is often affordable for college students.”
Twinn grew up in Mexico and would often visit a local taco truck with her uncle and mother.
“We would always have to walk down a steep hill…” she says. “But it was worth getting freshly made tacos every time.”
As demands for specific dishes rise, food trucks must come up with fresh new ideas daily to stand out from the rest. While some reinvent their menu and add extra toppings or ingredients to their dishes, others prefer to keep things simple. Twinn says she would like to see more Mexican-style food brought to the public, especially taco trucks.
BUILDING A DREAM
It has been 13 years since four students from Phoenix’s Carl Hayden Community High School won a national underwater robotics competition in California, beating many university teams, including the prestigious MIT.
Lorenzo Santillan and Luis Aranda were on the winning team in 2004. They’ve now taken a new goal into their hands by opening their own food trailer, Ni De Aquí, Ni De Allá, which translates to “from neither here nor there.”
Santillan, 29, explains that their trailer will focus on serving classical Mexican dishes that other restaurants “don’t serve properly.”
“They are overdone in a fashion that is bastardized,” he continues. “Take an enchilada, for example; restaurants go over the top serving it with beans, rice and other foods when it should only be one or the other.”
Santillan says he believes traditional Mexican food should be simple yet delicious.
“I feel like people have never been exposed to that,” he says. “It is going to be served as it is and I think people will enjoy it.”
Santillan, who attended culinary school at Phoenix College, credits his inspiration to both renowned chef Jamie Oliver and his mother.
“My mom showed me how to make all the food I cook,” he explains. “I call her my master chef.”
Santillan says he wants to become one of Arizona’s best Mexican cuisine chefs, but admits he needs a little more work before he can take on that role.
He reached out to lauded local chef Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe to see how she could help him with his goal.
According to Santillan, Esparza liked his ideas and the way he pitched his goals so much that she lent her restaurant as a pop up for the two men to showcase their cooking for the public.
For $30 per person, Santillan and Aranda served a complete dinner that included three appetizers, five entrees and two desserts.
Aranda, 31, says it was an exhilarating experience.
“Personally, I enjoyed it,” he said. “It was nice that someone believed in what we wanted to do.”
Like his partner, Aranda has been cooking since he was young. At just 8 years old, he began learning recipes from his mother and grandmother.
“I feel like we have been given a great opportunity,” he says. “We hope to continue to show people what we can do.”
According to Aranda, the food trailer will be open for business in the middle of April, ready to serve to the metro Phoenix and ASU.