Herbert Mena chose to name his new food truck Temple’s Best Authentic Mexican rather than Authentic Spanish because he thought students would find it more familiar. He’s determined to make a name for his truck, which was established this semester.
“I didn’t want my name to be similar to anyone else’s,” Mena said. “I originally wanted to call it Authentic Spanish, but people are usually more attracted to the idea of Mexican food because it’s more familiar.”
On an average day, Mena can be seen working in the truck to the sounds of Spanish music and quesadilla ingredients sizzling on the grill. Located on Norris Street near Tomlinson Theater, the truck has been in business for about three weeks.
Several students have already noted the food truck as a desirable new dining option.
“The food was great, I was really impressed with it,” Emily Jakimowicz, a junior marketing major, said. “I almost didn’t expect it just because the truck is so new.”
This comes as no surprise to Mena since he said he’s worked in the food industry for most of his life.
He said he understands that it will take time for people to notice his truck and gather the courage to try something new, and that word will eventually get out about his dishes.
“I’ve been working in the food business for 25 years, and I had the idea to be on my own and make my own food,” Mena said. “I’ve worked in restaurants and catering, but this is my first food truck.”
Being a newcomer to the Temple food truck scene may not be easy, but Mena said even though he hasn’t advertised much, the business is doing well – it usually gets 80 to 100 customers per day. Mena said he believes the food he serves is what makes customers return for more.
“I was on campus a few times and I didn’t really see any Spanish food, so I thought that with my experience and heritage that I’d have a good chance to offer students something different,” Mena said. “Mexican-style food is my specialty, and I just want people to try it and get to know what we have to offer.”
Although Temple’s Best is in close proximity to Wingo Taco, a truck that also serves Mexican-inspired fare, Mena said there’s no competition between the two of them because the neighboring truck specializes in Korean food.
“I don’t see my food competing with anyone else, it’s just authentic Mexican,” Mena said. “We use fresh-cut meats and everything is made to order – nothing’s frozen. My food is just different.”
The truck’s exterior design shows off Mena’s heritage as well, from the vibrant red colors to the dancing chili peppers above the menu. In the time he’s been serving Temple, he has been selling just about everything on the menu.
“People have been coming to try things and then coming back with their friends,” Mena said. “A lot of people are enjoying the chimichangas, but everything on the menu is a good choice. I also have American foods to keep everyone satisfied.”
Mena said he realizes college students often have a harder time coming up with the money to constantly eat from trucks, and that students often miss the feeling of a home-cooked meal. He makes every effort, he said, to keep his prices reasonable for the quality of the food he’s producing.
“I think students will get the best value for their money and quality of food at my truck,” Mena said. “It’s like you’re getting a home-cooked meal for $6 or $7.”
Jesse Worek, a junior finance major, said Mena’s cooking is up to par with a sit-down restaurant but is served at a much more reasonable price.
“I had a burrito the last time I was there, but I think I’m going to try the chimichanga next time – it looks great,” Worek said. “I also like that they sell Jarritos. The flavors are really good.”
Mena said he is the first member of his family to own a business in the food industry, and he said he is proud that he was able to achieve his goals.
“I’m just trying to make food that’s different and healthy enough that it won’t hurt you in the long run. I created my menu from my knowledge so I could make what I know best,” Mena said. “I just want people to enjoy it and understand what we’re all about.”
Ariane Pepsin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.