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Local restaurants finding a second home

A chance for the public to enjoy food from their favorite restaurants in an outdoor setting is providing a second home for a handful of restaurants.

Last month, the Mission Economic Development Corporation unveiled the Mission Food Park where a handful of food trucks are parked to serve the public right outside the Mission Center for Education and Economic Development.

A line of people getting ready to order from the Smokin Moe’s BBQ food truck at the Mission Food Park Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. Courtesy photo.

For Michael Barrera, co-owner of Mission’s Ranch House II, the food park is the equivalent of an additional location.

“The food truck businesses are competitive and hard to break out into,” Barrera said. “We like to take care of people who take care of us and this is an extension of what we offer in the restaurant for the community.”

Barrera is in charge of the restaurant’s food truck, known as “The Chuck Wagon,” which serves several of the restaurant’s signature dishes such as specialty burgers and hot dogs.

“Everything is served fresh and working at the food park has its ups and downs,” Barrera said. “People are just finding out about it and see how there’s room for a lot of social distancing and since it’s an open air concept, it gives people comfort because you’re not enclosed in a building.”

For Arnold Martinez, owner of Smokin Moe’s BBQ, the food park is giving him a stable location after being open for nine years in a catering service capacity.

“For years I’ve been thinking about converting the truck where I have a grill set up to cook at events and serve food into an actual food truck,” Martinez said. “When I found out the food park would be happening it provided some motivation to finish converting it to get it ready.” 

Steven Alaniz, co-owner of Brick Fire Pizza & More, also used the opening of the Mission Food Park to purchase a food truck. Brick Fire has been operating their food truck, called “Brick Fire Express,” for the last month at the Mission Food Park. Hungry customers can receive either 20-inch pizza or large individual slices of pizza and beer from the restaurant.

“We saw a lot of potential at the food park and wanted to be a part of it,” Alaniz said. “It’s been 100% worth it, we’re giving people a different option that’s been working out pretty good and consider it a second home. We know and are good friends and partners with several of the other owners there and are there to help each other out.”

As a catering business, Smokin Moe’s BBQ was not in business at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic since the spring due to many events being cancelled since last March.

“For the entire year it’s been very slow due to a lack of events and parties up until October when we started catering events for cities,” Martinez said. “I’m lucky though, this is something I do on the side and I was still employed during the pandemic, but a lot of people on my team weren’t as lucky.”

Barrera also recalled business being so slow that at one point, The Chuck Wagon wasn’t being used due to Ranch House II turning into a curbside delivery/takeout only model.

“I actually ended up letting a friend of mine borrow the food truck to use it to promote his restaurant,” Barrera said.

That helping hand Barrera extended to his friend is one he sees other food trucks in the park share with each other.

“We’re open about everything and try to make things work as a team effort,” Barrera said. “We’re here to help each other out because the more people that are here, the better it is for all the businesses here.”

“The food park helps all of us and we’re not competing with each other,” Martinez said. “We all get along. We’re here to support each other and not step on everyone’s toes because the more the merrier and we want the food truck park to be successful. I’m honored to be there and am excited to offer this and be able to provide delicious BBQ in this environment.”

For Barrera, the environment provided by the food park is one the public needs.

“We get to see people’s faces when they order and they’re excited to see what we have to offer from us and other food trucks,” Barrera said. “We’re privileged to see them smile as they receive a burger and we want to see people express that great feeling as often as they can for customers. A lot of people have been hurt by this pandemic and we need that feeling again.”

Alaniz also said Brick Fire is glad to be serving the community.

“It feels amazing to get the trust from people who want to be outdoors and feel safe there, we’re providing that feeling as we make them feel welcome with our food, “Alaniz said.

The Mission Food Park is located at 801 N. Bryan Rd. and is open Thursday through Sunday.

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