Dickinson plays host to nation's mobile food trendThe best things in life are supposed to come in small packages. The same thing could be said about food trucks as high-quality food is delivered to the masses from a tiny kitchen on four wheels, a national trend that has come to North Dakota along with oil field workers and heavy traffic.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, Forum News Service
DICKINSON, N.D. -- The best things in life are supposed to come in small packages.
The same thing could be said about food trucks as high-quality food is delivered to the masses from a tiny kitchen on four wheels, a national trend that has come to North Dakota along with oil field workers and heavy traffic.
"A friend from California, he told me about the economy here, about the oil," said Israel Arechiga. "He told me that I could do business here."
Israel, along with his brother, Etgar Arechiga, and nephew, Almeido Arechiga, opened up 3 Amigos taco truck a month ago behind the 4 Seasons Car Wash in Dickinson.
Israel Arechiga grew up in Mexico and moved to Seattle as a teenager and got his start working at Wendy's and Fish Cafe.
"I started as a busser, and then I was a waiter, and then I started managing, and after that I went to Florida," Arechiga said. "Practically all my life has been in the restaurant business. I tried restaurants, I tried taco trucks, I tried catering, delivering. I know how to cook. I know how to be a waiter. I was a dishwasher too."
He worked his way up through the restaurant business, eventually becoming a part-owner of Las Margaritas in Seattle. He then moved to Florida and became a part-owner of a restaurant in Orlando. When his friend heard about the booming economy in North Dakota, Arechiga sold his part of the restaurant and moved, enlisting the help of Etgar and Almeido, who came from Los Angeles.
"I asked him for help, just for now, and my nephew too," Arechiga said. The three of them are the "3 Amigos," for which his taco truck is named.
So Arechiga did what he always did, in a completely different way. After nearly 20 years in the restaurant business, he set up shop in a mobile food truck for the first time in his life.
"To buy a restaurant here is so expensive right now," Arechiga said. "That's why I decided to buy a taco truck first and try it here, to see what business is like here."
A few blocks away, Francisco Herrera and his wife, Judith, set up their Care Free Catering truck each day between El Sombrero and Prairie Maid Laundry, across from the Prairie Hills Mall. They've never had a brick-and-mortar restaurant, preferring the freedom of a truck.
"Me and my wife can handle it," Francisco Herrera said. "We decide which day off we want, the working hours every day. That's what we do and the people get used to it."
Before moving to Dickinson, Herrera said they lived in Idaho, Las Vegas and California. When they first moved to Dickinson two years ago, they traveled to work sites with their truck. Later, the Herreras decided it was best to stay in one place.
"I found out that if I stay here, the people come over here," Herrera said. "I don't have to go all the way to the job sites."
The Arechiga crew has the same strategy, even setting up tables and chairs for customers who don't want to take their food on the road with them.
The only call the Southwest District Health Unit ever gets about food trucks is inquiring about their licensure status, said environmental health practitioner Kevin Pavlish, who is in charge the department responsible for licensing all kitchens in the eight southwestern North Dakota counties.
"Generally what we have them do is bring it up here or we'll visit wherever they have it parked and we'll do an actual inspection of that facility to make sure that it does meet the standards that we have and that the (Food and Drug Administration) food code has," Pavlish said. "If it does, then generally what they do is apply for a license just like a restaurant does."
Food trucks that choose to travel north into the Bakken need to become licensed with the office in Williston.
"It just depends on which health unit has jurisdictions," Pavlish said.
Despite several patrons of Hispanic descent lining up outside their trucks each day, both Arechiga and Herrera said they've had to Americanize their food a bit for more northern tastebuds.
One of Arechiga's favorite dishes is ceviche, which is fish cooked overnight with lime juice.
"The people don't know very much about it," Arechiga said when asked why he doesn't make it at his taco truck. "I would try that, but I just want to make sure the people know what it is."
Despite having a famous fish dish cooked with lye, North Dakota has been rubbing off on Arechiga and his family.
"All the people here are so nice," Arechiga said. "They treat me nice here. I'm impressed. The people in Dickinson, everybody helps you. If you ask something they help you right away."
North Dakotans and all of the state's adopted residents have been supportive of Care Free Catering, Herrera said.
"We appreciate all the people that really believe in us," he said.