Papa Mario's Grilled Cheese team outside their food truck in Pueblo, CO
Pueblo, CO - If you live in Pueblo, are visiting our city or perhaps thinking about moving here, and you’re hungry, you’ll be pleased to learn that the national food truck phenomenon is in full swing. Whether your taste is barbeque, Mexican food, hot dogs, Indian food, gourmet popcorn or pastries and deserts, you can find a food truck in the area to satisfy your cravings.
A little online research tells us that the first food truck appeared in Providence Rhode Island in 1872 when Walter Scott parked a covered wagon near the local newspaper and sold sandwiches to the staff. Later, other lunch wagons appeared in New England. Of course many western TV shows and movies featured chuck wagons feeding hungry cowboys. The modern food truck concept began in 2008 in Los Angeles when Mark Manger and Caroline Shin, along with chef, Roy Choi, were the first food truck owners to receive national attention with a food truck. Food trucks became so popular that in 2011 popular restaurant guide, Zagat, added a new category called “Food Truck Reviews.” Today the industry even has two trade magazines.
There are an estimated 24,000 food trucks on the streets across America including those in Pueblo. Some are fully equipped trailers and others are motorized vehicles. For folks seeking one locally offering their favorite dish, there is even a Facebook page, “Food Trucks in Pueblo and Pueblo West,” with nearly 2,000 followers where food trucks post their menus along with announcements of where and when they will be serving. Many have their own social media pages, some with up to 3,000 followers.
Patrons can rest assured that the Pueblo Department of Public Health’s food quality, truck cleanliness and safety regulations which local food trucks must meet are as stringent as those required of brick-and-mortar restaurants.
“Food trucks are a perfect modern day example of American small businesses,” notes Assistant Amy Good Vice President of Legacy Bank which counts the industry among its client base. “Most are owner-operated and many are family businesses with one or two generations of the family involved.”
Holy Cow food truck fits this mold. Founded by Bradley Cabo and his wife Deepa Gangar the couple first served food in a tent at various public events and decided to upgrade to a food trailer a few years later. Their truck features American, Indian, & fair food ranging from curry burritos and an Indian plate to funnel cakes, ribbon fries, burgers and hot dogs including vegan and vegetarian options. Holy Cow is often booked by businesses or events to serve their employees or attendees but wherever they are parked, the public is also invited to place orders.
As a way to help fund the cost of three sons who wanted to play football, Juanita Romero produced homemade burritos which she sold to friends and businesses and later rented a kitchen to increase her business. When she realized how popular her burritos were she decided to transition to a food truck aptly named Juanita’s Burritos which is permanently located on the city’s southside. But the name does not indicate the wide variety of burritos, tacos, enchiladas and other Mexican foods on the menu. Customers can also order through Door Dash and Grub Hub.
Tiffany Gernazio opened Papa Mario’s Grilled Cheese Truck in October 2020 but wanted a different menu and decided on the American grilled cheese sandwich as a foundation. Today the truck offers more than a dozen variations on this theme. Tiffany and her family spent many weekends preparing and taste testing menu items in her kitchen to determine which ones made the menu.
Food trucks build a loyal following. All three truck owners we spoke with have customers who come by at least once a week if not more frequently. Many national studies indicate that it is Millennials who are the biggest fans of food trucks but locally the owners we spoke with have a strong following among all age groups.
Perhaps one reason many trucks are successful is because the owners have some restaurant and food service background. Bradley Clabo started taking cooking courses in high school and community college but chose not to pursue a restaurant career. Tiffany Gernazio managed a local Pueblo restaurant for nearly a decade before taking the food truck plunge. Juanita Romero started working at a drive in restaurant as a teenager.
Another strategy to attract customers is social media. Most food trucks have their own social media pages and also post regularly on Food Trucks in Pueblo and Pueblo West to let people know where their trucks will be appearing and to promote menu items.
There is also a strong camaraderie among food truck operators. Bradley, Deepa, Tiffany and Jaunita all mentioned that they visit each other’s trucks to sample their menus and share tips on equipment and aspects of the business.
If you haven’t given a food truck a try you might consider doing so. People seem to truly enjoy the experience. A recent survey by trade publication Mobile Cuisine revealed that more than 90% of food truck patrons rate the quality of their experience positively, with 43% calling it excellent and 48% good. They cited convenience, great food at low prices, and short waiting and serving times as the most enjoyable aspects of this type of dining.
Legacy Bank is proud to help generate local stories that share the good news about our community. The Legacy Bank staff volunteers 4822 hours in community service yearly and invests over $1 million dollars annually in outreach and support to Southeastern Colorado. Thank you Legacy Bank for being a Pueblo Proud sponsor.