Amidst the many unique food trucks at Northwestern University’s Spoon Fest on Friday, May 20, you might see something you wouldn’t expect – a food Smart Car.
Amanecer Breakfast Tacos sells tasty Texas-inspired tacos filled with different combinations of meat, beans, eggs and cheese right out of the back of a Smart Car. These filling tacos are ready for you to enjoy on your morning commute: owner Ana Vela has been parking the car at different locations around Evanston every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday since August 2015.
Everything that Amanecer makes, according to Vela, is homemade. Their corn and flour tortillas, their beans, their eggs, their salsas – it’s all made fresh daily.
You can really feel the love that Amanecer puts into their tacos. Because the business operates on such a small-scale, it’s much more personal. When Ana grabs a taco out of her Smart Car and hands it to you with a smile, you know what you’re getting is high quality.
Bean and Cheese
First I tried one of Amanecer’s most popular tacos among vegetarians, bean & cheese, which you can order inside a flour tortilla or a gluten-free corn tortilla. I tried a tender, homemade flour tortilla, and the creamy, cheesy, savory filling of pinto beans and Chihuahua cheese inside made for a mouth-watering bite. The Mexican hot chocolate on the side, rich and spiked with sweet cinnamon, was a great addition to the meal.
Next, I tried the Machacado taco. This taco contains eggs, shredded dried beef shipped straight from Texas (because according to Vela, she couldn’t find anything like it in the Midwest), tomatoes and onions. The texture combination was great, and the saltiness of the beef complemented the sweetness of the tomatoes and onions, while the signature red and green salsas added a kick. Even just one or two of Amanecer’s tacos are super filling, making them a great on-the-go breakfast option.
After enjoying Amanecer’s delicious tacos on a sunny Thursday morning, I sat down with Vela to ask her a few questions about her unique food start-up.
Spoon: What made you want to bring breakfast tacos to Chicago?
Vela: My husband and I moved to Chicago five years ago from San Antonio, Texas. Breakfast tacos are what everyone eats for breakfast in Texas! It’s part of your morning routine. And not finding them in Chicago made the transition to a new city without family and friends just that much more harder, as silly as it may seem. Meeting more people from Texas out here we all connected about the same thing – the lack of breakfast tacos! I then decided to take on introducing this cuisine to Chicagoland.
Spoon: How do you come up with your menu?
Vela: We held a focus group to test out our menu options. We had a range of people who have had breakfast tacos before, and people who had no idea what we were talking about. What we discovered were that people were more interested in the authentic Northern Mexico/Southern Texas variety of breakfast tacos (where I grew up) vs. the more Americanized versions.
Spoon: What is your favorite kind of breakfast taco?
Vela: Of our menu, my favorite is bean & chorizo. It’s what my mom would make us for dinner on Sunday evenings as she was making fresh flour tortillas for the week.
Spoon: What are some of your most popular tacos?
Vela: Chorizo & egg and our Machacado are the most popular. Vegetarians love our bean & cheese.
Spoon: How is owning a food “truck” different from a real restaurant? What kind of work goes into it?
Vela: I think it’s more challenging to run a food truck – scouting the right locations, abiding by strict parking and operating regulations, conversing with customers to try something new and explaining to people that our food is safe and all safety processes are followed.
I think there is also less predictability in running a food truck. Operations are different when you prepare around what’s going out for that day only. It’s also a lot of fun because we get to travel to different places and meet lots of people! We get invited to different corporate offices, sporting events and festivals all over the Chicagoland area.
Spoon: How quickly do you run out of tacos every day?
Vela: Sometimes as quickly as within an hour, others last the whole three hours. There are many factors: day of the week, weather, location that all impact sales. We’ve learned so much to help us formulate how many tacos to make each outing.
Spoon: Is there anything else you want people to know about Amanecer?
Vela: I think it’s important people understand we are a food startup, not just a taco truck. Our business comprises of food truck, catering, wholesale, and special events sales. We have a bigger picture goal for our business, and we are in the proof of concept stage right now. Everyone’s feedback, reviews and purchases help us construct a clearer picture of what expansion could look like.
Want to try Vela’s tacos for yourself? The Amanecer SmartCar will be at SpoonFest! Find her at Deering Meadow on Friday May 20, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.