The ingenuity of two devoted Alexander City community members who share a love of quality products inspired the creation of Blanco’s Food Truck.
Tony Blanco and Mark Gilliland formed a bond when they began working together two years ago, which ultimately led to the effortless decision to partner on a joint venture.
“Our relationship started when we were working together on Main Street – I was doing a bloody Mary bar at Ocie & Belle’s, and Tony would come cook up his omelet bar. As soon as I started working with Tony, I liked him. He’s young, energetic and cares about the product he puts out. I like to think I do the same at the bar. That’s why we’ve been successful,” said Gilliland, also owner of Ocie & Belle’s on Main Street.
The food truck began operation at the beginning of August after the pair purchased a 2002 United States Postal Service workforce truck and converted it into a working kitchen. The vehicle is outfitted with two coolers, which have counter and prep space; a gas range with two burners; a large flat top gas grill; a hand washing sink and a vent hood, which helps push out the hot air.
While Gilliland’s main responsibilities include behind-the-scenes work, reserving locations and taking orders when on site, Blanco’s culinary talents are the driving force of the business. Described as authentic Mexican flavors with a twist, Blanco’s food is inspired by his Mexican roots with an added distinctive element of his own style.
“Everything we serve is made in-house: sauces, marinades, pico de gallo,” said Blanco. “Sauce especially is something people gravitate to, so we set out to create a signature sauce, which is our chipotle mayo.”
The menu currently consists of tacos, nachos and quesadillas, while rotating some daily specials – even if not Mexican-centered.
“We’re not limited in our food offerings, which is why it’s a food truck, not a taco truck,” said Blanco.
The three base elements can be served with ground beef chorizo, chicken, buffalo chicken or shrimp.
“Many people assume chorizo is pork, but that’s the style of marinade not the meat,” said Blanco. “We use thigh meat for our chicken because it stays moist, and we wanted to do something different from shredded. The shrimp is marinated and grilled, inspired by the Mexican dish, camarones a la diabla, which contains blackened flavorings.”
Tacos are made with corn tortillas, which is the authentic way, he said. Shrimp tacos come with a house-made slaw and chipotle mayo. Quesadillas are made with flour tortillas and contain a meat of choice and cheese.
Nachos include Blanco’s mom’s beans and rice recipe, with meat, cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream and chipotle mayo.
Ana Zarate, Blanco’s mother, also cooks on the food truck, along with her friend, Graciele Oajaca and Santos Chimalhua.
“It really is a group effort, a team thing. Everybody has their roles. Really, it’s a whole community effort,” said Gilliland.
After Blanco closed the Taco Bar and left Coffee Corner, where he was part owner, earlier this year anticipation ran high for the return of his food.
“People were so anxious for us to re-open. The community feedback has been so positive. From the time we announced we’d be opening a food truck, people had just been waiting to come by,” said Blanco. “Especially the Alexander City firefighters. They used to walk over to the Taco Bar all the time for lunch, and now they’re still following us where we park the food truck. They’re some of our biggest supporters.”
Gilliland said he’s noticed how many hard-working community members choose to spend their money eating at the food truck multiple times a week.
“I think that’s a huge compliment to Tony and to what he’s doing. To see people be willing to come back time and time again and willing to give you that hard-earned money, is a really inspiring thing,” he said.
Being able to move to a customer base is one of the strongest advantages of the operation, said both Blanco and Gilliland.
“I enjoy this more than brick and mortar because even though it’s hard – and trust me, it’s not as easy as it may look – you are not tied down to one spot, and you can move to customers. People are so much more accepting when we change locations, hours, etc.,” said Blanco. “The beauty of it is – here we get to say we sold out; rather than we ran out.”
The future plans for the food truck are to slowly add additional items while still maintaining a manageable menu and branching out to attend larger events, which will increase the customer base.
Blanco’s Food Truck typically is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. To follow its daily location, visit Blanco’s Food Truck’s Facebook page and Instagram. The operation also is available for catering weddings and private events.