The Grand Forks Herald sat down with Melissa Castro, owner of Melissa’s Mobile Cocina, for 5 Questions this week to ask her questions about her food truck business.
Q: When did you start Melissa’s Mobile Cocina?
A: Melissa’s Mobile Cocina started in July of this year. I had a previous food truck, and I had a little Mexican-style trailer, and I did it on and off for years, but it was only part time when I could go out. I’m a mother of three children, and I had a little young daughter. This year, I was going to have to put money into my little small trailer because regulations in Grand Forks changed, and I needed a new suppression system, and I decided ‘Well, I’m not going to put money in my little trailer. I’ll just see if I can buy a newer one.’ So, I had the opportunity with my husband and my family, they helped me out, and they all got me this new trailer. So, I decided this year with my new trailer that I was going to do it more personally. I put my name on it.
Q: What are some of the different food items you sell?
A: My main menu is three tacos -- steak tacos, pork al pastor tacos, chicken tacos -- burritos, quesadillas with the charro beans. But with the newer, nicer and bigger trailer, I’ve been selling enchilada plates, tostada plates… I change my menu throughout the week because I don’t want to serve the same thing all week, so I do change my menu quite a bit.
Q: How do you decide where to park each day for business?
A: My primary spot is at the Surplus Center on North Washington Street. When I do move, I do move either for events or for businesses that want my services for that date. But, if I have nowhere else to go, my primary stop is at the Surplus Center. Those people are amazing people.
Q: What are the challenges and advantages of running a food truck as opposed to a brick and mortar restaurant during COVID-19?
A: My goal is to open a little breakfast and lunch Mexican cafe, but because of how the prices are, the commercial rental spaces are super expensive. Plus, what makes it harder is the produce. My daily expenses are high, so my prices are a little higher, which I don’t like, but I have no choice. It’s so hard, because the meats are expensive, the produce is expensive… Everything is expensive. I want it back to normal. I try my best. You don’t know how the week is going to end up. Sometimes the week is slow, sometimes it’s a busier week, but I love it. I love cooking. I love serving the community in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. I’ve been here for maybe 25 years off and on, and I always end up coming back. Whenever I left, I always came back. I love it here. I love the community, and the people are awesome.
Q: What should people who have never eaten at Melissa’s Mobile Cocina know if they are considering visiting your restaurant?
A: If you want to try authentic Tex-Mex, then visit. I’m originally from a small town in Texas, a border town to Mexico, so I learned throughout the years how to make Texas-style tamales, and I do make my food from scratch with love. I love what I do, and if they want to come and try it, then come and try the real deal.