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Tacos al pastor, pollo, carnitas. Foto: Eli Siegel
Tacos al pastor, pollo, carnitas. Photo: Eli Siegel

Tacos Don Memo: A staple of University City’s food truck scene

Tacos Don Memo is a reliable source of classic Mexican and Tex Mex fare.

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If you walk through University City at midday, it is inevitable you will come across a wide variety of food trucks serving everything from Middle Eastern food to pizza to tacos. These trucks are a lifeline for students and hospital workers in the area looking for a fast, tasty lunch. One of the first of these trucks to fill this need was Tacos Don Memo, which opened in 2008.

“At that time there weren’t many food trucks,” said Leo Saavedra, the owner and chef of Tacos Don Memo.

The idea behind the truck’s gastronomic offerings is to serve the most authentic Mexican food possible. On offer are five food categories: burritos, tacos, tortas, tostadas and quesadillas. Each of these can be filled with either chicken, seasoned pork (carnitas), marinated pork (pastor), or steak, depending on the client’s preference.

“We sell everything made fresh to order,” explained Saavedra. “The majority of other food trucks already have everything cooked. Here you order and then we cook it.”

Although each dish can be adapted depending on the particular customer’s order, the menu itself has stayed the same over the last ten years. The goal is to be a reliable place where customers can get the same thing they have enjoyed for years.

“We are consistent in our offerings and quality,” said Saavedra. “If you tried something 5 years ago here, you can still get it today. This is what makes us stand out from other trucks in the area.”

However, the truck does offer certain specials in addition to the classic menu that change depending on the season and time of day. On Saturdays, the truck rolls over to nearby Clark Park for the farmers market where it serves breakfast burritos and tacos as well as chilaquiles verdes in the morning. In the winter, their offerings in the market also include tortilla soup.

The truck often gets incredibly busy starting around 11:30 a.m. when customers begin calling in their orders. Saavedra wears a headset so he can take these calls while still cooking and preparing food. Going forward, they hope to open a more permanent taqueria in the West Philly area where they can have more time to prepare a wider variety of cuisine.

“We are only two people (in the truck). There’s only so much we can do,” said Saavedra.

In addition to the expanded menu, they hope to have an open kitchen concept in the taqueria where customers can see exactly how the dishes are prepared.

“Customers give us all the trust of being able to make everything,” said Saavedra. “You order something and don’t see what happens. (Being able to see the chef cook) is something I have not seen a lot.”

Saavedra’s experience in the food business started in the state of Guerrero, Mexico where he is from originally. He developed his skills from working with friends who owned their own restaurants. When he came to Philadelphia around 2000, he worked in a Japanese restaurant where he learned more about running a restaurant business.

“I learned the whole system of how a food business works,” said Saavedra.

These skills have served him well over the last ten years owning and operating his own business, something he believes many other Mexican immigrants can do.

“I want to say to any other Mexican that is thinking about doing something, it is not as hard as it seems. When you put yourself to work and do it, it can be done.”

To learn more about Tacos Don Memo, check out their Twitter @tacosdonmemo or send them an email at [email protected] You can call to place an order at 610 529 2039. From March to June, they have catering for private events or will bring the food truck directly to you. Address: 270 S 38th St. Philadelphia, PA 19104. Hours: Monday - Friday 11am to 4pm. Saturdays they are at the Clark Park farmers market. Prices: $7 - $9.

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