Colorado Springs, CO: New Mexico & Korea Go for a Spin

Robert Montoya dishes up family favorites, and bulgogi

By Nathaniel Glen | The Gazette

Robert Montoya dishes up family favorites, and bulgogi

Can the fancy-food-truck-fusion trend get traction in Colorado Springs? Hard to say.

But Robert Montoya is the first test run.

In the spring, he started serving Korean barbecue and family New Mexican recipes out of a converted RV he calls Fill Ur Belly. And while crowds like those that have flocked to feted food trucks in cities like New York and Los Angeles have yet to materialize, give it time. The Springs is always well behind on food trends.

And food trucks are nothing if not a trend. Riffing off the Mexican loncheras that have long plied the streets of most Western cities, a new yuppie breed of mobile kitchens has tried to dodge the “roach coach” reputation by serving sophisticated treats like Vietnamese hoagies, organic all-beef hot dogs, fish tacos, sushi and even vegan burgers from a vegetable oil-powered truck. The cook behind a Korean taco truck in L.A. was named “best new chef” in 2010 by Food and Wine magazine.

The trend has not only spawned copycat trucks but corporate trucks: Taco Bell has gotten in on the act.

Little of the food-truck frenzy is obvious, though, standing next to the black spray-painted Fill Ur Belly mobile. On every visit, I’ve been the only one there, while Montoya and his mother, both from Socorro, N.M., prepared simple, hearty, Southwestern dishes — or Korean barbecue.

The New Mexican is old school, homestyle stuff, what you might get at a church potluck in the San Luis Valley.

The barbecue is not so much a nod to the L.A. fusion craze as to Montoya’s wife, who is half Korean.

In fact, there is no fusion here. The New Mexican dishes are New Mexican. The Korean, Korean. Soy sauce and salsa never meet.

“I’ve been thinking about doing a Korean burrito with bulgogi and grilled onions and rice,” Montoya told me recently as he slapped together some stacked enchiladas. “But I’m still testing it.”

I suggested he should test it out right then and there, on me, but he shook his head.
“It still needs work. It’s too salty,” he said.

Even with its conservative approach, Fill Ur Belly satisfies.

The Mexican here is traditional. Think lots of chili and melted yellow cheese.

A smothered burrito ($5) comes packed with ground beef, diced potato and onion, and a splash of scrambled egg that holds it all together. Over the top, the Montoyas  ladle fantastic red chili — bright as a cherry bomb and just as explosive. It is the real thing, rife with ground red chilies trucked in from the Land of Enchantment.

And it’s messy. Given that this truck has no seating and most people eat in their cars, I recommend bringing an old car or a new tarp.

The same is true of the stacked enchiladas ($6.50), layered with lettuce, tomato and shredded yellow cheese, and drowned in thick, rich green chili spiked with shredded beef instead of the tradition pork. The heat is mild. The chilies are a bit timid, but the overall flavor is addictive.

A few dishes are more street-friendly. The taco burgers ($3.50), two soft tacos stuffed with seasoned beef patties, lettuce, tomato and cheese, make a great snack, and the homemade hot sauce on the side makes them even better.

The Korean barbecue ($5.50) is good, too. The flavorful flank is not too greasy or salty, and comes with a small cup of kimchi on the side.

Man, it would taste great in a taco. Let’s hope they try it soon.