Here’s a late-afternoon shot of the drive-thru in action at Taqueria Taconmadre’s extended taco schoolbus, parked in its usual space this past weekend at the corner of Crown and Brownwood streets. The Taconmadre taqueros have been frequenting the concrete slab on the lot across the street from X-IT Bail Bonds for at least a decade, though the green vehicle employed has been upgraded from truck to bus to bus-plus during that time; the drive-thru setup was added in the most recent expansion a few years back. Those not comfortable breaking with standard foodtruck transaction protocol can still order on foot from the bus’s passenger side.
The taqueria operates a brick-and-mortar drive-thru-or-sit-down spot at 905 Edgebrook Dr., between Ryan’s Express Dry Cleaners and Casa Tires; Taconmadre also lists Bellfort St. just west of I-45 as the normal location of another green (but non-drive-thru) truck, between dry cleaner St. Mary’s Washateria and GG’s Wheel & Tire.
Photo of Taqueria Taconmadre truck at 610 Crown St.: CW
The Rodriguez Brothers have produced more than 200 food trucks out of their warehouse on the corner of Garrow and Roberts just east of Settegast Park, reports food critic and soon-to-be-restaurateur Robb Walsh. Inside on a recent visit, Walsh finds 14 vehicles in various stages of customization — including catering trucks, taco trucks with “California-style” cantilevered skylights, and vehicles outfitted with elote cookers, shaved-ice machines, or other specialty equipment. “The kitchen is designed for the kind of food being served,” co-owner Daniel Rodriguez tells him.
Sure, Houston has about 1,000 licensed mobile food vendors. (Yes, most of them are taco trucks.) Why aren’t there more? Ruthie Johnson explains a few of the regulations — and other roadblocks:
Most of the standards are a welcome way to ensure food safety, but some are annoying — or downright ironic. Street vendors, for example, must be at least 100 feet from any seating area, yet must have notarized proof of a usable restroom within 500 feet. The tiniest of carts must have a massive vent hood. And vendors are never allowed to be on a sidewalk. Jason Jones of Haute Texan Tacos says that actually “the biggest problem is that there aren’t really any decent pedestrian areas for street vendors in Houston.” Jones, who recently put his truck up for sale, goes on to explain that a fire code which prevents propane-powered businesses from selling anywhere downtown or in the Medical Center takes away a street vendor’s two largest pedestrian areas.
Other obstacles? Powerful restaurateurs don’t want the competition from street vendors, consumers don’t appreciate them, and city officials make it difficult to get questions answered and inspections scheduled. Sean Carroll of Melange Creperie says that “Anyone looking to start a mobile food service business in Houston should expect to be on the sidelines for six months at the very least.