The Taco Truck’s Journey


Jose Gama, Staff Writer

Many students at Arcadia High School go out to eat at taco trucks around the San Gabriel Valley (SGV). These trucks serve tacos with meats like carne asada, chicken, and al pastor. For the most part, we don’t question how sanitary it is to eat from these trucks, but only a few decades ago, these trucks would be called a “Roach Coach” due to the notion that they weren’t very clean. What makes this term bigoted and anti-Mexican is that this only applied to taco trucks, not other mobile food units. The term originated in the 80s when taco trucks were gaining popularity amongst people in areas where they were allowed. How did these trucks go from feeding laborers on break to serving all kinds of people?

Raul Martinez is credited as the first person to start the taqueria on wheels idea, and opened up a taco truck in 1974 named “King Tacos”. He converted an ice cream truck into a taco truck, parking it outside a bar in East L.A. The truck was extremely successful, and after six months Martinez was able to open up a restaurant and ditch the truck. Today, it’s a successful restaurant chain with multiple locations around L.A. Others would pick up the trend, creating their own taco trucks. 

In the following decades up until the 2000s, the majority of these trucks sold tacos and other Mexican street food. These trucks would go to construction sites during the workers’ lunch breaks since they were predominantly Mexican immigrants. 

The attitude towards these trucks would change in 2008. There are many factors that can be attributed. Many cooks were laid off from brick-and-mortar restaurants as a result of the 2008 recession. The rise of social media also exposed more people to mobile trucks, inspiring other cultures to set up trucks that served their own cuisine. 

In 2010, Los Angeles implemented mandatory health inspections for food trucks, just like their restaurant counterparts. This also contributed to the modern-day positive attitude towards taco trucks, giving them more validity and trustworthiness. 

Sophomore Lake Harcrow shared his thoughts on his love for taco trucks.

“Taco trucks are a convenient and delicious way to enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine. They often offer a variety of affordable options and are made fresh. Taco trucks can sometimes be found where Mexican restaurants aren’t located, making them more accessible. I feel like they bring cultural flair to areas, and are a great place to quickly grab some food with friends and family.”

In the Arcadia Code of Ordinances Article 9 Division 4 Section 9104.02.220, the requirements for street food are very strict. The section states that the operator must have a business license and approval from the L.A. County Department of Health, which is standard. However, it also states that the food vendor is responsible for any trash that traces back to the food unit within a 25-foot radius. Food trucks may not be open before 8 a.m. or past 11 p.m. Vendors can’t even dump liquids such as water into the city sewage. Such precautions may be the reason why there aren’t many taco trucks located in the City of Arcadia.

Nowadays, all kinds of people love taco trucks. Their sanitation isn’t questioned, and they are a common meal amongst people in the SGV. They have gone from “Roach Coach” to “Go-to”, and are now a big part of Southern California street food culture. 


Photo by TJ Dragotta