CHEROKEE EATS: The Kickin’ Taco Truck serves Mexican cuisine

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Former Reporter
06/19/2018 04:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Denisse Ramos, left, and Cherokee Nation citizen Paula Thompson, right, are the co-owners of The Kickin’ Taco Truck. The two began the business in 2014 and serve various Mexican specialty cuisines, including quesadillas, burritos and tortas. ARCHIVE
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The Kickin’ Taco Truck has this menu item for customers –a steak-filled quesadillas with avocado, pico de gallo and melted cheese topped with sour cream in a flour or corn tortilla. Denisse Ramos is the head cook and buys the ingredients each morning, while Cherokee Nation citizen Paula Thompson manages the business and catering. ARCHIVE
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The Kickin’ Taco Truck takes Mexican cuisine on the road to Muskogee, Stilwell and Tahlequah each week. When not operating within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction, co-owners Denisse Ramos and Paula Thompson travel the world getting food ideas and inspiration for their menu. ARCHIVE
TAHLEQUAH – From fish salad to loaded tacos, customers can rest assured their food will be fresh when they place their orders with The Kickin’ Taco Truck.

“We’re trying to cater a little more to the people that may have diabetic problems, weight, just watching what they eat, with fresh food,” Paula Thompson, co-owner and Cherokee Nation citizen, said. “I think that fresh food is just something that most people are starting to look for in and on a menu, and it just tastes better.”

Co-owner and cook Denisse Ramos and her assistant shop each day, sometimes multiple times a day depending on demand, for supplies and ingredients.

“Everything you get for the day, we buy it that day,” Ramos said. “We order meat the day before, and they have it all cut fresh for us. There’s no leftovers from the day before.”

Thompson and Ramos began the business in 2014. Thompson said she focuses on the business side after growing up watching her mother own a restaurant, while Ramos focuses on cooking.

“Paula is like the brains of the whole thing, and I’m just a cook. That’s what I like to do,” Ramos said. “She knows where she’s going, what we’re doing and which direction she wants to pull us. I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been so successful. When I have some crazy ideas, she reels me back and puts me on track to, ‘OK, you want to do that, but first we have to do this and you accomplish this, then we can do that.’”

But Thompson credits Ramos’ cooking for the truck’s success, calling it “a party on wheels” that has several fan favorites, including a loaded taco.

“Loaded tacos is like a steak taco. It’s kind of like our twisted version of the street tacos,” Ramos said. “It has the pico de gallo, avocado, cucumber, which is a little bit different, and it has cheese, and it comes in a corn tortilla. But people can also get it in a flour tortilla if they don’t want a corn tortilla.”

Customer Aleah Brown said she visits the truck every week and has tried the entire menu, though she recommends her favorite to others. “I always tell all my friends and family about it, and I say, ‘you definitely have to try the tacos.’ That’s the first thing you need to eat. Eat the tacos. I’ve tried everything else, but you can’t beat the tacos. They’re, hands down, the greatest.”

Delfino Andrade, the truck’s butcher, said he sees firsthand the lengths Ramos goes to for their fresh offerings. “(Ramos) shops every morning down where I work. She buys her vegetables and meat every morning, so I know everything is fresh. So when I come here I know I’m getting a fresh product. Usually she wants lean meat. Not much fat on it and tender, of course. She just comes in and seasons it and cooks it, and that’s her thing.”

Andrade said his favorite item is the torta, which he described as a “Mexican sandwich” with French bread, a meat of choice, avocado, lettuce and tomatoes.

Much of the menu, which includes burritos and quesadillas, uses family recipes passed to Ramos from her mother.

“Every dish you get from me is like if you were coming to my house and I would cook for you. I cook it just the same way I would cook it at my house,” Ramos said. “I talk to my customers like I’m talking to a friend, and I think that kind of makes them feel like they’re part of the truck.”

Thompson said the duo also travels to other parts of the world for inspiration.

“We just returned from the Cook Islands, and one of their items was a fish sandwich, and Denisse had the idea to make the fish torta, and then it evolved into the fish salad,” Thompson said. “That’s just kind of how we keep growing and moving, but keeping our staple items on the menu.”

The Kickin’ Taco Truck sets up at various locations, including Super Spray Car Wash and W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, as well as Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee and Wilma Mankiller Health Clinic in Stilwell.

For more information, call 918-457-0246 or visit Kickin’ Taco Truck on Facebook.

Cherokee Eats highlights Cherokee-owned eateries and their specialties. Send suggestions to brittney-bennett@cherokee.org.

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