Have it your way, your place, with cafe on wheels
The sign says “Good food served here.”
And a big part of what makes it so good is customer participation. No, they won’t let you into the kitchen, but the Get-A-Way Grill will let you have it anyway you want it.
“The thing with our menu is we tell you what we have and then let the people create their own meal,” said Steve Otero, owner and operator of Valencia County’s newest mobile restaurant. “We provide the staples and from that make anything you want.”
Want a carne adovada quesadilla? They can do that. Menudo your thing? They have that. Hot dog wrapped in bacon, just like Mom used to make? Can do.
Using fresh ingredients cooked when you order, Otero says his mobile eatery can cater any event you care to have.
“We do catering and got our start helping out at charity events. Fajitas are our speciality,” he said. “So instead of cooking the food and then transporting it, we wanted to cook on site.”
Otero said the grill has served 300 people at a wedding and traveled to Moriarty to feed 2,000 at McCall’s Pumpkin Patch.
Starting with an enclosed cargo hauler, Otero and his son installed everything needed to create a fully functioning kitchen. A large stove, refrigerator and sanitation station were installed, along with tanks for fresh and waste water. The mobile grill has its own power and gas, and Otero says it leaves nothing behind when it leaves a site.
“Nothing is dumped out — ever,” he said. “We are inspected by the state Health Department. We have to meet the same standards as a restaurant in a building. This just lets us have less overhead expenses.”
And not being tied to a foundation lets Otero and his grill go places others can’t. Not only can he do weddings, chamber of commerce luncheons and parties of all kinds, Otero says his mobile kitchen could take on an emergency.
“We have everything we need, so we can pull right up. If a school ever had a kitchen go down, we could cook right there,” he said.
Otero also offers the convenience of being a bit of an event planner, so folks can one-stop-shop with him for an event.
“We can get the tent, tables and chairs, a DJ if they want, get everything taken care of for them,” he said.
The people are the fun part, Otero says. As customers ebb and flow under the locally made custom awning, Otero greets folks, relays orders to his niece and summer cook Christine Lucero, and happily brings out a sample bowl of spicy chicken adovada for the Los Lunas Fire Department EMTs to share as they wait for their orders.
“I try to sit down and visit with them, if we’re not too busy,” he said.
Taking the idea of “shop locally” to heart, Otero gets nearly all of this food supplies from local grocers, the exception being his chile and tortillas, which he purchases from Sabrosa Foods in Albuquerque.
“I wanted to get my tortillas from them because they don’t use any preservatives. We have to get them every day, but they’re fresh that way,” he said. “And the food is cooked fresh when you order it. It doesn’t sit around.”
A local upholstery shop run by Danny Torres made the custom awning and screen door to the kitchen, Otero said.
“He made it with a pass-through so we can hand out orders and keep the insects out during the summer,” he said. “He did an amazing job.”
While Otero tries to have a bit of everything available for his customers — there’s even a can of Spam, just in case — he won’t deny people what they are looking for.
“We had some people stop by hoping for barbecue. We don’t serve barbecue, so I pointed them down the road to Ribs,” he said. “It’s not going to hurt my feelings if we don’t have what you like.”
Trying to keep the menu fresh is one of the challenges Otero says he faces.
“People get tired of the same thing,” he said. “We try to keep changing things up.”
The other challenge is inherent to an outdoor eating experience — the elements.
“It’s been kind of windy lately and the cotton is blowing around. But it’s just a little fiber, right,” he laughs.
The grill is open Tuesday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Saturday’s they are open, Otero tries to have menudo ready and waiting. Currently, the business only accepts checks and cash, but Otero says he is in the process of getting a wireless credit card machine.
Because the business is mobile, it isn’t always in the same spot. So before you head out for a little al fresco dining, give Otero a call at 975-2116 to see where the grill is parked. And if you want, give him your mobile number for daily texts. Who knows? You might just get invited to bring-your-own-mug for free coffee early one Saturday morning.
Contact Julia M. Dendinger