Business focus: Popular Tacos el Sol food truck owners bring ‘magic spoon’ to new restaurant on North Division Street
Fans of Mexican food might have despaired when the bright yellow Tacos el Sol food truck, known for its tasty street tacos, disappeared from downtown Spokane this summer. But in November, Oscar Escamilla and his wife, Irma Zuniga, celebrated the grand opening of their sit-down Tacos el Sol restaurant at 3422 N. Division St.
Escamilla said neither he nor his wife had any restaurant experience when they opened their food truck in 2008.
“We always wanted to have our own business, to be our own bosses,” he said, speaking Spanish translated by his son, Oscar Escamilla Jr.
His wife has always loved cooking, Escamilla said. “She’s the more professional cook,” he said. “She’s got the magic spoon.”
Their customers had asked them to open a restaurant, but Escamilla said he was hesitant about taking on such a big responsibility. Then they lost their location where they parked their food truck in downtown Spokane this summer.
“We had to find a new location,” he said.
After a lot of searching, they settled on the building on Division Street. There’s a lot of traffic and Escamilla even likes the view out the windows of the restaurant perched near the top of a hill. “It’s a main street,” he said. “It’s exactly what we wanted, not too big, not too small. It’s got really good parking.”
For several months the couple operated their truck in the parking lot while they worked to fix up the building, a task that took five months.
“The building needed a lot of work,” he said. “The walls were broken. It looked like someone broke in and vandalized the building.”
The exterior paint was peeling, and they repainted it a vibrant red and painted their logo on the sides, making it hard to miss.
All the while Escamilla was worried that he had lost all his customers, many of whom walked to his old downtown location. But he was pleasantly surprised to see how many were willing to get in their cars and drive a couple miles up the road to get their lunch tacos.
“I realized I shouldn’t have worried,” he said.
There have also been plenty of new customers stopping in, and the business started making a profit within a month, Escamilla said.
Their most popular item on the menu is their street tacos, which can be ordered with beef, chicken, pork, chorizo or cow’s tongue. Prices start at $2.25 per taco or three tacos for $1.75 each. “It’s our biggest seller and our burritos also, for their size and price.”
The larger location has also allowed him to expand the menu, adding chimichangas, fajitas, hard-shell tacos, chicken nuggets and french fries. Children’s meals are also available.
Escamilla and his wife and his son run the business, but had to hire three new employees to help. His daughter helps out part-time with catering orders.
Right now the distinctive yellow Tacos el Sol truck sits in the parking lot, but Escamilla said he’s not ready to abandon the truck that got him started and would like to find a place to park it on the South Hill.
“It would be bad if I didn’t open it back up again,” he said.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
“We’re really happy with our customers and what they’ve given back to us,” Escamilla said. “That’s why we work so hard with our business, so people leave here happy.”