SAN ANTONIO – In the middle of the bright lights and thumping music along the night club zone known as the “St. Mary’s strip,” dozens of pounds of marinated meat sizzle on a grill inside a bright yellow food truck.
Tacos El Regio cooks up enough beef, chicken and other items to serve about 150 tacos most weeknights.
On weekends, they sell double that amount.
“The lines at nighttime, especially on the weekends, they're ridiculous,” said Fernando Quintanilla, the owner. “The difference between us and the rest is we add extra ingredients like cheese and avocado.”
Quintanilla owns both the St. Mary’s Street location and a second Tacos El Regio food truck on the city’s Northeast side, on Nacogdoches Road near Bell Drive.
Both sites cater to the late-night crowds, operating from about 9:30 p.m. until the wee hours of the morning, seven days a week.
He said the schedule is intentional, purposely designed to avoid the breakfast taco rush.
“There's way, way too much competition in the morning and I don't want to fight,” Quintanilla said.
His strategy, so far, appears to be working.
Quintanilla has been in business about a dozen years.
He said he spent 10 of them, himself, working and watching the world from behind the windows and grills of his food trucks.
“The difference between the breakfast tacos and the nighttime tacos is the customers,” he said “You'll be surprised by all the stuff that happens at nighttime.”
One night, in particular, stands out in Quintanilla’s mind.
He said after his security guard had handcuffed one especially belligerent and drunken customer, a car full of the man’s friends showed up with guns and took him away with them before police arrived.
“It was like something out of a movie,” Quintanilla said.
Although his workers do have to deal with their share of tipsy nightclub-goers, Quintanilla says most customers are kind and mainly after one thing—his street tacos.
Still, he doesn’t take any chances on making any of them angry.
Customers with the middle-of-the-night munchies, he says, want their food fast.
“The most important part that (employees) need to be trained for is speed,” Quintanilla said, snapping his fingers.