That's the consensus on Carmelita's Tacos & More, a food truck that opened this month on Downtown Plaza, drawing praise from Americanos of varying nationalities.
When owner Norma Valdovinos purchased the little tienda on the corner of Downtown Plaza and Fourth Street and set up the food truck in the parking lot, she was hoping the local Hispanic community would support her endeavor. Much to her surprise and delight, her food has attracted a more diverse crowd.
Julieta Delatore works on garnishes at Carmelita’s Tacos & More, while owner Norma Valdovinos runs the grill.
"That makes her happy that a lot of people enjoy it," said Edson Valdovinos, 16, translating for his mother, though no translation was needed for the beaming smile on her face.
The mother of three boys knew she needed to find a way to bring money into the house when she and her husband separated.
"She wanted something of her own, to be independent," Edson said. "... She likes how it feels, instead of just being at home."
Running her own business hasn't been easy, but it has been rewarding.
Seven days a week, Carmelita's is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., but the work goes beyond those hours. The store and food truck are manned by Valdovinos, with help from her family and friends. At 8 a.m., food prep begins for the beef, pork and chicken that will go into tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Green and red salsa must be made, and avocados whipped into a creamy guacamole. Cleanup at the end of the day means the workers leave for home around 11 p.m.
The recipes are the same Valdovinos uses at home, learned from watching her mother, Carmelita, cook for her family, though Valdovinos did no cooking herself until she got married. The store and food truck are named in honor of Carmelita, who passed away last year.
"When my mom started cooking, it was bad," Edson translated, his mother laughing and cringing at the memory of those first meals.
Through trial and error and a lot of mistakes, Valdovinos learned from experience and improved, and her distaste for cooking turned to love when she watched her children enjoy her food.
"She's seen a lot of people have been enjoying it now," Edson said. "If it continues to grow, we're going to be looking for a closed-down shop to open something bigger."
The grill at Carmelita's Tacos & More will be open through November, when the permit expires and the weather turns cold.