Meals with Wheels

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As the RGV food scene grows and branches out, so does its number of food trucks. These mobile restaurants were once only found in big cities, but with the help of local food truck parks and Valley residents’ adventurous tastes, they are gradually becoming more popular and in-demand.

One Valley food truck park, The Broken Sprocket, has shown promise and success in its first few years of business.

Tony Estrada, president of The Broken Sprocket, first opened his Brownsville food truck park in March 2016. “I wanted to give my city something better than the regular restaurant and bar,” the Brownsville native said. “When I moved down here, back home, is when I brought the concept with me.”

Estrada said for his proprietors, food trucks sometimes serve as a test or stepping stone into opening a traditional restaurant. Of course, sometimes owners will choose to stick with solely food trucks or a combination of the two types of restaurants depending on what they are looking for.

“I think we’re sort of an incubator for brick and mortar — they actually go hand in hand,” Estrada said. “Instead of investing a ton of money into a brick and mortar restaurant, you can just come with me and then build a following — basically, see if people really, really want your content. When you’ve built a big enough demand and you feel like you want to go ahead and open a restaurant, you can. And by all means you can keep the truck if you want to do both.”

That’s exactly what Frank Macias, owner of Frankie Flav’z restaurant in Harlingen, did after opening his food truck a little over five years ago, at a time when there were not many food trucks around.

In a previous interview, Macias said he felt more comfortable starting off his restaurant journey on a smaller scale.

“I was ready to open a restaurant, but I didn’t know what to expect,” Macias said. “I told myself I was going to open up a food truck because there’s a lot less overhead and the expanse of the investment is not as high as a restaurant. There were some days we did really well, there were some days we did really bad. But we always had a following.”

That following helped Macias grow his mobile restaurant into his first brick and mortar establishment at The Point. Frankie Flav’z food truck is still around today, although Macias said it is mostly used for catering.

While Estrada acknowledges that the business side of things can sometimes be highly competitive, he said he wants to see his community thrive and his proprietors experience success at the end of the day.

“There is competition obviously but with me, my concept is working more hand in hand with it,” he said. “We can help each other out, whether it’s testing the market or trying something new.”

The Broken Sprocket is located at 6305 Paredes Line Road in Brownsville. Regular business hours are from 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Friday and from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. They can be reached at (404) 644-7202. To see what events are coming up, visit their FB or Instagram page @thebrokensprocketrgv.

The City of McAllen has also welcomed a myriad of food trucks into its historic downtown entertainment district. The Yard, known for its variety of food choices and late hours, is located at 401 S. 17th St.

Another food truck hot spot, McAllen Food Park, is located at 10 N. Broadway and holds a monthly event, Food Park Unplugged, every third Friday each month from 8 to 10 p.m. with free admission, shopping, and live music for guests to enjoy. The event is always family and pet-friendly. Inquiries can be directed to (956) 682-2871.

Marina Flores, manager of The Yard Foodtruck Park, said they officially opened Jan. 24, 2019, and recently celebrated their one-year anniversary. According to Flores, The Yard typically has different types of food trucks circulating through to bring variety to customers.

“We’ve had pizza trucks here, we’ve had taco trucks, we currently have a torta truck, a gordita truck, an organic vegan truck, Pachamama, we’ve had barbecue before — they should be coming back. We do plan on getting other food trucks here, like little pop-up shops,” Flores said. “So we really want to make all of our customers happy and cater to their tastes.”

Flores said The Yard strives to maintain its inclusive status and regularly sees customers of all ages, from college students to tourists to couples on date night, as well as families with children.

“We see a mix of everything because we are family friendly. We see a lot of young children and babies with their parents. We have games like Jenga and cornhole that we see people of all ages playing,” Flores said. “We’re also pet friendly. We’ve had animal benefits and events here, like Yaqui Animal rescue, PAWS, Tito’s for Dogs, pet clinics. We want the community to come by, try new food, hang out and also have something fun for themselves, their families and their pets.”

The Yard is open from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday and opens earlier for brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. For additional information, they can be reached at (956) 887-1302. See their latest happenings on FB or Instagram @theyardmcallen.

What is your favorite food truck in the Valley? #JoinTheConversation at facebook.com/rgvisionmagazine.