Taco truck returns after three-year hiatus

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Jovanny Gonzalez hands an order to Nate Messier, both of Jasper, from the Taqueria El Llano food truck at the Schroeder Soccer Complex parking lot in Jasper on Wednesday. The food truck opened at the location last week. Employee Elisabeth Rangel of Huntingburg said she is glad to be open as a food truck again and to offer something different.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — Amy Morris picked up five quesadillas for herself and her Rural King coworkers. Santiago Nunez of National Office Furniture swung by to pick up food for himself and his wife, Rosy. Kris Lechner, who was working a nearby job with Weyer Electric, also hopped in line.

They all journeyed to the William Schroeder Soccer Complex, late Wednesday morning, on their lunch breaks, to get a taste of something they’d missed for ages.

The taco truck.

About three years after Taqueria El Llano stopped serving up authentic Mexican dishes in the iconic red trailer at the corner of Third and Main streets, the truck relaunched at a new location last week.

And not even a dreary February rain could keep customers away.

Owners Francis and Beto Gonzalez are the first to regularly take advantage of the city’s mobile food vendor ordinance in a public place. The local legislation — passed by the Jasper Common Council in September — enabled the resurrection of the popular trailer.

Though the success the Gonzalezes experienced from the taco truck sales led them to opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant and a grocery store on West 28th Street in Jasper, the couple always wanted to sell from an on-the-go counter.

“Because it’s different,” Francis explained. “It’s not like all the other restaurants [customers] sit in. You can go around and be at different locations and be there for everybody.”

Beto Gonzalez of Jasper hands an order to a customer from the Taqueria El Llano food truck at the Schroeder Soccer Complex parking lot in Jasper on Wednesday.

Currently, the trailer, which is pulled by another vehicle and has its own generator, operates daily in the parking lot at the soccer complex on West Second Street. Taqueria El Llano arrives between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays. It functions in the lot all day on Fridays, and hours currently float on the weekends.

The truck’s first run ended in 2017 after the business’ temporary, one-year operation permit expired and was not renewed by the Jasper Board of Zoning Appeals. Following multiple tabled votes at Francis’ request, she withdrew her permit request due to a health department rule that presented a hurdle.

“Everybody was kind of devastated that it went away,” Morris said of the business on Wednesday, as she waited for a bag loaded with lunches under a pop-up tent.

Like many residents, they missed the food. They missed the convenient location. And they missed how easily the tacos, quesadillas, tortas and burritos could be picked up on short breaks.

Now, Francis is in compliance with all regulations and looking to the future. She hopes to expand Taqueria El Llano’s reach by adding another, drivable food truck to the company’s fleet. That one would travel farther away, possibly to places like Huntingburg and Evansville.

Even though she likes the uniqueness her truck currently has in Jasper, she is all for more mobile vendors coming to the area.

“It’s nice to know that I kind of started it,” she said. “If somebody else wants to do it, that’s fine. I’m OK with it. There’s more for everybody.”

That city’s mobile food vendor ordinance defines a mobile food vehicle as a “self-contained food establishment that is on wheels, self-propelled or moved by an engine, weighs no more than sixteen thousand (16,000) pounds, and for which the primary purpose of the vehicle is the sale and/or production of food.”

Mobile vendors wanting to rev up their fryers and dish out foods in Jasper need to obtain not only a mobile food vendor permit, but also a Dubois County Health Department permit, and both transient merchant and door-to-door solicitors licenses from the city.

Those operating on property owned and maintained by the city are also required to provide a certificate of liability that insures the applicant and names the City of Jasper as additionally insured against liabilities. More restrictions are also part of the ordinance, and fines can be assessed to any operations violating the rules it spells out.

Vendors are prohibited from operating or parking on any property owned and maintained by the city between the hours of 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., but special requests can be made for vendors wanting to operate during restricted hours.

Other locations that approved mobile vendors could set up at include:

• The Dave Buehler Plaza parking lots at Third Avenue and Fourth Street.

• Parking spaces on the Courthouse Square, after 5 p.m. on weekdays and during normally permitted hours on weekends.

• Parking spaces on Seventh Street through Ninth Street between Newton Street and Jackson Street, after 5 p.m. on weekdays and during normally permitted hours on weekends.

• The Jasper Farmers Market, upon completion and submission of executed vendor agreement and payment.

• On private property that is zoned business or industrial, with written consent of the property owner.

The city also has the authority to designate other locations of permitted operation for special events.




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