Pupusa Drivers | Short Orders Blog
When Zack Phifer returned to Richmond after a two-week excursion to El Salvador, a hole the size of a pupuse was left in him. According to Phifer, he “ate pupusas at every meal two to three times a day” during the entire trip.
With over 17 years of experience cooking for various artists and music organizations and few local options to fill that void in his heart, he did what he does best when he returned to Richmond: he crafted the food itself.
Alex Britland – a good friend of Phifer’s and avid culinary artist – always dreamed of owning and running a food truck. Pair these aspirations with Phifer’s pupusa fixation and dream of being your own boss and bam – Cocina Calle was born.
From an early age, Phifer and Britland have always clicked. Both very motivated, they made good business partners. “Let’s do it together,” was the resounding response for the two when they decided to pursue their dreams with a new food truck business.
But when the pair went into the kitchen to perfect recipes ahead of launch, there was always a certain level of anxiety. “Yeah, those pupusas are good, but are they this okay?” was a common sentiment according to Britland.
After bringing their food to the masses, it became apparent that their pupusas were popular. One of Britland’s neighbors who once lived on the outskirts of Guatemala, bordering El Salvador, will call them frequently to organize any small gathering in the backyard. This good.
The food truck is also a family affair. Monica Britland, Alex’s wife, is another co-owner. She’s mostly in charge of the logistical work – social media, planning, organizing – you name it, she takes care of it.
If you’re wondering what to order, consider these options: bean and cheese pupusa, vegan tot-co (they’re also throwing tacos), yucca tots, and everything in between. Here are the team’s picks when asked by Style Weekly what was most popular among their regular customers.
However, the aforementioned bean and cheese pupusa was not always high on the list. At first their pork pupusa would have had the upper hand. They use their own home-smoked, slow-cooked slow-cooked pork there. Over time, vegetarian options like beans and cheese and the newly launched spinach and cheese pupusas have gained momentum, overtaking carnivorous options in popularity.
Highlighting the hardworking little yuccas of Cocina Calle is a must. Besides being the perfect accompaniment for your pupusa(s) and/or taco(s), they are a real labor of love. From start to finish, it takes about two hours to turn raw yucca into its ready-to-fry mash. The process is clearly worth it, as customers are currently consuming around 70 pounds of fried root vegetables each week. Among the fried yucca options on the menu: yucca tots with homemade aioli ($6) and loaded yucca tots with choice of protein, topped with coleslaw (curtido) and cheese and served with choice of salsa. The truck also offers a sweet version of tots for those looking for something more dessert.
In the future, this street food hopes to maintain the momentum it has gained and expand its offerings. Brunch service is on the horizon, where their two-hour yucca mash will be highlighted. Developing their catering business is another aspiration.
Besides expanding the business, the Cocina Calle team has major goals for the future. Ideally, they would like to have their own commissary kitchen to accommodate other food trucks. Their vision offers endless possibilities: a food truck lot, a home brewery that also serves local beers, featured food and beer pairings, and more.
But for now, the team is cultivating motivation by seeing repeat customers come back again and again. As Alex said, “To see people really enjoying our food and showing up at different places is [those] regulars who keep us going.