In October 2018, a light brown, a nearly orange 1987 Chevy P30 Box Truck rolled onto the streets of South Bend.
The former prison transfer truck had been repainted not only with a new color scheme, but also with skulls with cross bones, hearts with “Mom” sashes draped around them and dancing hula girls, all reminiscent of cliché, bad boy tattoos. The truck was also repurposed not for transporting convicts, but for serving tacos and chips and salsa from Hacienda Fiesta Mexican Restaurants, the popular Indiana franchise.
“It shows a little attitude, that we’re unconventional, that we’ll be somewhat rebellious and you can’t expect us to be one thing. It’s more of an edgy thing with tattoos,” said Hacienda marketing director Cody Jackson.
Tattoo Taco, Hacienda’s newest community outreach tool and South Bend’s latest addition to the street food scene, not only serves simple, creative tacos, but also represents the “edgy” side of Hacienda, as Cody described it. The taco truck is adventurous with flavor profiles, often changing up taco flavors between different events, while still offering Hacienda’s classic tortilla chips and salsa. For one event Tattoo Taco might serve pineapple apricot pork tacos and at another serve blackened avocado tacos. According to Cody, Tattoo Taco will present a variety of new tacos for the 2019 season.
“It can be different each time. We’re not staying in any certain parameters,” Cody said.
Stepping out of the norm does not only pertain to Tattoo Taco’s recipes. The idea for a food truck was a first for Hacienda, a 40-year old restaurant franchise with 14 brick and mortar locations across northern Indiana. To some it may seem like a step backward to introduce a food truck, but for Hacienda it’s a step into a new age of community involvement.
“It’s a big step for us because sit-down family restaurants as an industry is on a slight decline, while off-premise sales and food trucks are on the rise every year,” Jackson said. “We know people want stuff fast and convenient on the go, so we bring food to people, then rely on them to come to us.”
South Bend and Mishawaka will remain staple areas for events like Taco Tuesdays in downtown South Bend, among other community events and festivals. In 2018 Tattoo Taco did not venture far out of the South Bend and Mishawaka region, but Jackson expects the truck will find some new ground in 2019 in areas like Elkhart. Similarly, a goal for Tattoo Taco is to come in closer proximity with other food trucks, even of the Mexican and taco varieties.
“We’ve learned the more food trucks the better. It really is more of a community aspect when we’ve run into more variety,” Cody said.
Connecting with other food trucks can be as important as connecting with customers. All of it is about building rapport and camaraderie in a community. For Tattoo Taco, that means finding a balance between being an arm of Hacienda, while also presenting itself as an independent, singular entity. It is mobile Hacienda with a twist, or the edgier Hacienda on wheels. Tattoo Taco brings the familiarity of local Mexican food while also venturing into new, creative territories, both in flavor and placement. Like its history of moving prisoners in and out of the slammer, Tattoo Taco presents a slight bad side that sets it apart.
“We tend to be on the edgy and adventurous side of things,” Cody said. “We’re a fun company. It brings out the fiesta experience for our customers.”