Chico's Taco Trucks
By Kayla Anderson
Taco Truck Tuesday and Other Days, Too!
Story and Photos by Kayla Anderson
FOR MORE THAN 15 YEARS, taco trucks have been seen all around Chico serving inexpensive, delicious food. No matter where you are going, it seems that a taco truck is close by, serving affordable, authentic Mexican food. Find a torta with guacamole, lettuce and well-cooked seasoned meat (maybe even lengua) nestled in a sweet bun for around $5 or a smattering of cilantro, onion and pork in two small, warm, soft flour tortillas for $1.25 apiece.
It seems like Mexican taco trucks have been in Chico long before the whole food truck craze hit, so where did it come from and how has this movement maintained its popularity in Northern California?
On 1295 East 8th St., right off Highway 99 heading eastbound on Highway 32 toward downtown Chico, the Gordo Burrito shares a parking lot with a Valero gas station and serves as El Paisa Taco Truck’s headquarters. The flagship restaurant where all the cooking takes place is bustling with people, some ordering in Spanish, some in English.
Behind the counter is Jorge Uriate, the brother of owner Jose Uriate. The Uriate family started with two food trucks 15 years ago and then opened Gordo Burrito 10 years ago. Originally from Sinaloa on the Pacific Coast Gulf of California in Mexico, the family emigrated to Encinitas in Southern California, eventually finding their way up to Northern California.
“All of the family cooks,” Jorge says. “My sister, Mirna Garcia Uriate, opened a taco truck in Corning 20 years ago and it did very well. She would drive to the orchards to feed the pickers,” he says.
After seeing Mirna’s success, Jose decided to open Tacos El Paisa and kept it parked on 598 E. 8th St.
“Here in a town of 80,000 people, we do pretty good business,” Jorge says.
Then about a decade ago, the City of Chico required that local food trucks could only stay in business if they had a sanitary place to drain their gray water, so the Uriate family opened a permanent structure and called it Gordo Burrito. The physical location proved to be just as successful as the trucks.
“On a slow day we’ll do 120 customers,” Jorge says of Gordo Burrito. “Business with the restaurant has boomed every single day since we’ve opened,” he adds as a steady stream of people come filtering in and out on a midweek afternoon.
Jose’s wife and three children work alongside him in the taco truck business, plus 25 employees who help cook and serve 50 pounds of beans daily and 800 pounds of chicken a week. Chicken is the most popular meat on the menu, consisting of boneless chicken thighs grilled, cut and seasoned into moist chunks to go alongside bits of cilantro and onion in a soft taco.
“We’re from out of town and we found the best place – we heard that Gordo Burrito has amazing food and they were right,” a customer says.
Other popular authentic Mexican taco trucks include Fiesta Taco on 933 Nord Ave. in front of Star Liquors (they have more than 20 items ranging from tostadas and quesadillas to combo plates) and Tacos El Pinolero on 275 E. Park Ave., known for their tender seasoned carne asada in tacos, tostadas or burritos and served with a jalapeno, radishes and a lime wedge.
Other taco truck companies have been spotted in
Los Molinos, Corning and in South Redding on Knighton Road. •