By Oscar Vargas | Emissourian
ouched-up in teal and hand-painted that way, the Mercadito Food Truck is a new business venture owned and operated by Francisco Valentin Salazar Atayde.
Visually, the color, along with design flourishes such as the chalkboard menu that matches the colorful offerings on the front of the truck, sets Atayde apart from the number of food trucks around Napa.
But looks aren’t everything. Atayde said he wants his business to be something entirely different.
“The idea (for the business) basically comes from cooking since I was 16 or so. I always wanted to have a place where I could cook and present my ideas and whatever I learned,” Atayde said.
A spate of learning and culinary exploration came after his arrival to the United States, where he found work as a cook.
However, he missed the tastes and flavors of his homeland since the food being called Mexican “was a flavorless, cheaply made imitation,” Atayde said.
He thought he could do better. Atayde wants to bring the flavors from his past into the present via Mercadito Food Truck.
What he offers is twofold: a menu with a selection of traditional Mexican food and one with a selection of fusion food.
“So basically when it says ‘traditional,’ it’s food from Mexico City. The huaraches (are) from Mexico City.” On the traditional menu, “we don’t have burritos ‘cause burritos are a Mexican-American food,” Atayde said. “We’re trying to avoid that for now.”
The “fusion” part of the menu includes sandwiches and salads. “It’s where we try some of the newer stuff, some healthier stuff.”
The businessman said he likes to serve organic food.
“The beans — we don’t get them canned — we cook the beans every morning. The pesto sauce; the vinaigrette, we make that ourselves. The bread, we get it from Sciambra,” Atayde said. Mercadito Food Truck tries to source many ingredients locally.
In Spanish “Mercadito” means “little market,” and this also has a significance rooted in Atayde’s past.
“In Mexico, when you go to the mercado, you can find anything,” including traditional foods called pambazos, chilaquiles, sopes and tostadas, plus fruit, candies, chips and drinks.
“Basically that’s our idea,” he said.
For example, the truck sells organic whole fruit. “So when you go get a sandwich or something, you have the option” to buy a piece of fruit to go with it.
This wish to emulate Mexican mercados, albeit at a much smaller scale, is the source of another of Mercadito Food Truck’s distinguishing features.
Every week or two Atayde will be offering a different dish on the menu based on what the Eatwell Farm of Dixon, one of the several used, sends.
Mercadito Food Truck’s logo includes a stylized sugar skull, drawn by Atayde himself, which looks toward the right side of its brain, alluding to the popular notion of the right brain hemisphere being the “creative side.”
Likewise, his creativity is where Atayde will be drawing from when creating something new for his menu.
“Some people tell me it’s going to be too hard to constantly have a different traditional dish in addition to my permanent menu and that it might be a little crazy, but this is what I want,” he said.
“This is what I have been missing and I want to share it with friends, family and whoever is willing to try a good dish inspired from good times.”