Want authentic street tacos and Mexican cuisine on wheels? Fort Wayne's food truck scene has it

During the warmer months in Fort Wayne, food trucks are a popular way to dine, and if you're looking for fresh and authentic Mexican cuisine on wheels, you're in luck.

Two popular local food trucks, Salsa Grille and Flora & Lily’s Mexican Kitchen, are serving up everything from street tacos to burritos and anything smothered in queso Chihuahua cheese.

We sat down with the food entrepreneurs behind these businesses to hear their stories (and get tips on what to order).

Salsa Grille

You might know the local quick-service Mexican chain Salsa Grille owned by the Rongos family of George’s International Market. This chain has operated brick-and-mortar locations around the city for more than seven years, and it wasn’t long after they opened before customers started to inquire about catering, says Co-Owner Chris Rongos.

While the family was reluctant to pursue it at first, after doing their due diligence and market research, they discovered that catering made sense. When the catering business was well received, the family wanted to make their food accessible to even more people. Hence, the idea for the food truck was born.

Salsa Grille's food truck was introduced as a response to customer demand.

The Salsa Grille food truck debuted in 2019, offering a streamlined version of the restaurant's standard menu. Chris's brother, Jerry Rongos, says the menu was designed to ensure timely food truck service. 

“Guests can enjoy made-to-order nachos, burritos, bowls, tacos, and more and get them in a matter of minutes,” he says. “We wanted to build the operation for speed and efficiency.”

Speaking of efficiency, that was another important factor for Jerry when he and his family set out to design the food truck. He says that at some food trucks, it’s not clear where to order and where to pick up food, so customers get confused and create congestion. To that end, his family put a lot of thought into designing Salsa Grille food truck to optimize the guest experience.

In hindsight, Jerry says the truck has been a nice complement to the restaurant and catering business. They often set up shop at private parties, weddings, corporate events, and more in the Fort Wayne area.

So which menu item is a must-try? Chris’s favorite is a chorizo bowl with a side of chips and their namesake salsa.

Flora & Lily’s Mexican Kitchen

Flora & Lily’s Mexican Kitchen is a family affair.

Flora Barron and Lilia Horta are sisters who run the business with help from their parents and other relatives. In fact, their recipes have been passed down from the family’s time in the restaurant business in Mexico, allowing them to bring authentic flavor to the streets of Fort Wayne.

“All of our family has been in the business in some way," Barron says. "My sister owned a restaurant a few years back, so we wanted to open something to offer the same type of food that we made in our native country.” 

Flora & Lily’s Mexican Kitchen serves made-to-order tacos, burritos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, and more.

Now based in Fort Wayne, the family is part of a wave of Latino business owners growing in numbers and economic power nationwide. A recent study from Stanford University shows that during the past 10 years, the number of Latino business owners grew 34 percent, compared to 1 percent for all business owners in the U.S. Barron's recipes have been passed down from the family’s time in the restaurant business in Mexico, allowing her to bring authentic Mexican tastes to Fort Wayne.

While Barron says the family initially planned to invest in a traditional restaurant storefront, they decided to go with a food truck and catering business model instead. When they did, local organizations like the Fort Wayne Food Truck Association and the Downtown Improvement District helped them make their idea a reality.

Today, going into their fourth season in 2020, many of their customers come by word of mouth marketing, she explains. 

Flora & Lily’s Mexican Kitchen serves made-to-order tacos, burritos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, and more. Barron says they can accommodate a variety of dietary needs on the menu, although she’s partial to anything made with authentic Mexican Chihuahua cheese.

Overall, she attributes the food truck's success to three variables.

"People appreciate good flavor," she says. "You can tell the difference between when it’s made from scratch and when it comes from a can. Second is customer service. Also, being able to be dependable. When you’re committed to being at a place, you have to show up prepared.”
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Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a freelance contributor for Input Fort Wayne. A graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.