Lola’s and Vaquerito Taqueria are food trucks in Fort Worth that a trio of immigrants started in 2019 and weathered through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic turmoil that followed.
Their success isn’t just based on good food, but their commitment to customers.
Linaim Morin, co-owner of Lola’s, had to educate people on the type of food that she served. Lola’s sells Cuban food, a cuisine the truck owner acknowledged is not as well known in Mexican food-dominated Texas.
“People see a food truck, they assume it was a taco truck,” she said
She told people to try her food, including her Cuban sandwich, and they were hooked.
Fort Worth resident Taylor Norrid regularly visits Lola’s. Norrid frequently visited Havana and other cities in Cuba until pandemic travel restrictions grounded her in Texas.
Lola’s was a good way for Norrid to enjoy Cuban food when she was not able to visit the island, she said.
“I’m grateful for it,” Norrid said.
‘Key to getting ahead’
Darwin de la Cruz faced a different challenge when he started his taco truck called Vaquerito Taqueria. He had to make his food stand out from the sea of tacos trucks in Fort Worth.
De la Cruz often asked bars in the Stockyards if he could set up shop in front of their business. The approach paid off as bar patrons started buying his tacos, he said. With each taco sold, his fan base grew.
“We believe knocking on doors and seeking to be given a chance to show them that our work is good is the key to getting ahead,” de la Cruz said.
Starting as a food truck gave de la Cruz the opportunity to meet people and cover more places, he said. But it wasn’t always that easy.
People discouraged de la Cruz when he said he was opening a food truck. He recalled being told the permit process with the city of Fort Worth was difficult.
“But, in truth, it was not,” de la Cruz said. “The staff of the city of Fort Worth always gave us a quick response and supported us.”
While his food truck flourished, the number of food truck permits issued in Fort Worth dropped, from 450 to 434 in the past four years, according to a city spokesperson.
Freedom through business
Morin and de la Cruz are immigrants. Morin and her husband, Miquelin, moved to the U.S. from Cuba in 2014, while de la Cruz moved here from Mexico.
The Morins moved because of the economic situation in their home country.
“You don’t have many opportunities to have a business or keep your money,” Morin said. “We come (here) because of the economy and the freedom that the system gives you.”
Lola’s was born because the couple said they could not find any Cuban food in Fort Worth.
Now, the Morins spend their mornings preparing for a day serving construction and hospital workers near downtown Fort Worth.
Their heritage is on full display on their food truck. The outside has the red, white and blue of the Cuban flag, and is recognizable on the corner of West Weatherford Street and North Henderson Street near Downtown Tire. The sound of Cuban music can be heard in the surrounding block. The smell of plantains frying and pork roasting in an oven emanates from the food truck.
Likewise, the bright red Vaquerito Taqueria truck shows off de la Cruz’s home. He uses a recipe from Tabasco, Mexico, to cook steak and chicken. He also makes a northern Mexico-style barbacoa.
Both trucks have similar future plans. Lola’s is finalizing the opening of its brick-and-mortar restaurant. de la Cruz hopes to open a restaurant in the future, but is happy with where his business is at.
“We feel grateful and happy to work at the Stockyards and make new friends every weekend,” de la Cruz said. “We do our job with great love and always try our best.”
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.