Super Mario’s, Tacos Tecalitlan fulfill cravings for authentic grub
Bellingham loves burritos. If you don’t think so, just start counting the number of Latino-influenced restaurants around town: There are almost as many places to get a burrito as there are places to get coffee and a muffin.
And as with coffee shops, Bellinghamsters seem to be just as vocal about which burrito is the best. So it came as a surprise when a man wearing a sweatshirt from Casa Que Pasa, the home of the famous potato burrito, walked up to a lesser-known eatery and ordered a Wonder Burrito.
Where is this place that steals loyal Rancho Burrito customers and converts them to the Wonder Burrito?
That place is El Salvadareño Super Mario’s – or as more people know it, the taco truck.
Located on the corner of North Forest and East Champion streets across from Wilson Motors, Super Mario’s has been serving up burritos with a Salvadorian twist for four years. The bright silvery truck sits beneath what looks like the remains of an old gas station car port.
The place doesn’t look much like a restaurant on the outside, save for a few tables and chairs. But on the inside, the truck looks like a regular kitchen with a prep table, a sink and a flat iron grill.
Most days you can find Frances Cerecedes there taking orders in English and Spanish, grilling up everything from tamales to papusas, a traditional Salvadorian dish of corn tortillas stuffed with beans, cheese and sometimes meat. The papusas are one of the best-selling items on the menu, behind the Wonder Burrito, Cerecedes said. What’s their trick?
“Everything is fresh every day,” Cerecedes said.
Even burrito business slows during winter
On the days Cerecedes works, she picks up the truck from her brother Mario, who owns the business, and drives it into downtown. She opens the truck for business at 11 a.m. and customers slowly start calling in to the business cell phone to place orders for lunch.
Located along a busy thoroughfare, the taco truck reaps the benefits of drive-by traffic. There is plenty of room for cars to park and for people to sit while they eat. Not everything is perfect, though.
“The only problem is the changes in the weather affect us,” she said.
In the summertime, business is good. People often discover the taco truck while walking or biking around town and the weather is nice enough to sit and enjoy a meal. But business slows down during the winter months, when it’s cold and rainy and people tend to stay indoors.
Even inside the truck where the grill warms the air and the heater blasts, Cerecedes said she can sometimes feel the chill of winter, especially in the evening. (The truck doesn’t close until 9 p.m.)
In the wintertime, the truck also gets dirtier from driving on the road than in the summertime, thus requiring more cleaning.
“In the winter it’s hard to keep it clean because of all the mud,” Cerecedes said.
Not surprisingly, Cerecedes’ brother bought the truck in California, where the weather is better suited for a mobile business. Cerecedes, who was born in El Salvador and followed her brother to the United States after he immigrated in the mid-1990s, said she likes Bellingham more than California though.
“I like it because the summers are not as hot as in California,” she said. “And I love the snow.”
Eventually, Cerecedes said, she would like to see the business expand beyond the taco truck and into a more permanent space where they can offer a wider selection of traditional dishes.
“We’d like a small place where we can have a restaurant with a drive-through and have a Salvadorian bakery,” she said.
Tacos on the Guide
Let’s not forget about tacos. Even the most hardcore burrito fan has to mix it up a bit and try something new. Or just try another taco truck.
If you drive a few miles beyond city limits on the Guide Meridian, you’ll find another local favorite that often goes unnoticed: Tacos Tecalitlan.
Near the intersection with Smith Road and located behind Glynn’s Shamrock Pub, this taco truck is hard to miss, especially since it is surrounded by brightly colored concrete blocks that sport the green, white and red colors of the Mexican flag.
Much like Super Mario’s, Tacos Tecalitlan has developed a consistent following of taco lovers. After ordering seven tacos, Lummi tribe member Jeffrey James Jr. said he comes out to the taco truck about once a week.
“I love their tacos,” he said. “I could go for Mexican food anytime.”
Business out here is a little less affected by the weather, said owner Juan Carrillo with his daughter Nancy translating. Out here customers have a 12-foot by 12-foot covered eating area that provides a warm, dry place to enjoy their tacos. However, Carrillo does admit that business is better in the summertime.
Carrillo, who was born in Jalisco, Mexico and first came to Whatcom County to work in the fields, started the business with his father in 1995 in Burlington and expanded the company to Whatcom County in 2001. Tacos Tecalitlan now has four locations: Bellingham, Burlington, Mt. Vernon and Everett.
Though it may seem remote and far from the city center, the Bellingham location attracts many passersby, especially Canadians heading back to the border crossing beyond Lynden, Carrillo said. Tacos Tecalitlan also has quite a diverse group of regulars — Carrillo estimates that about half of the clientele are native Spanish speakers.
And for now, business is good. Carrillo said he hopes to keep the taco truck going just the way it has been for the past seven years.
So for those of you burritovores out there who haven’t yet found the perfect wrap, don’t worry: though these taco trucks have wheels, they’re not going anywhere.
Where to find them
El Salvadareño Super Mario’s
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Location: Corner of North Forest and East Champion streets
Specialty: Wonder Burrito ($5.50)
Hours: Wed.-Mon., 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Location: Near Glynn’s Pub at corner of Guide Meridian and Smith Road
Specialty: Traditional taco ($1.25)