By Leeanne Griffin | CTNow.com
Greg Sharon’s knowledge of California’s Mexican-food scene happened in a roundabout way. The native New Yorker took his film degree from Boston University to Los Angeles after graduation.
“I thought I was going to go to Hollywood,” he says, but he found himself disillusioned with Tinseltown after unsuccessful auditions and one appearance on a game show as an extra. During the day, he’d treat himself to lunch at local taquerias, and at night, he’d shop for groceries and try to re-create the dishes he’d enjoyed.
“I’d buy fresh cilantro, tomatoes, tomatillos, chilis … and started concocting whatever it was I thought I had for lunch,” he says. “Somehow over the years, out of that came all these great authentic recipes.”
Years later, living back on the East Coast and missing Southern California tacos, he started a small catering business. It was slow-going, he admits.
“I think in about six months, I had 12 whole orders.” Clients would tell him they liked the food, but asked for items like burritos and tacos on a more casual to-go basis. “I realized I’ve got to take this off the ground, I’ve got to take this to the next level.”
The next level was Sharon’s first foray into mobile dining in July 2010, as he opened a tiny taco cart in the parking lot of Dino’s Car Wash in Madison.
“It really was successful,” he says, but he shuttered it for the winter in October and started making bigger plans. By spring, he had a trailer, which expanded his capabilities to make burritos and quesadillas and to begin catering private parties, which people were beginning to request. Now, Sharon owns and operates two full food trucks, which accommodate a busy schedule of private events as well as public vending stops in Madison and at the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets.
“There’s obviously a captive audience here, and it gives people from all around the state an opportunity to check us out,” he says of the outlets. “We’ve been getting a lot of party requests from customers who’ve eaten here on weekends.”
Even in November and December, what might be considered off-season for New England-based food trucks, Clinton Crossing continues to be a successful stop for the truck during Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season.
Truck visitors find a variety of classic items like tacos (soft or crispy), burritos, quesadillas and tostadas, topped or filled with choice of chicken, ground beef, carnitas or veggies. Baja fish tacos feature cilantro-lime marinated tilapia, and sides of pico de gallo and guacamole are made fresh daily.
“When we run out of guacamole, we have to explain,” Sharon says. “That’s always been the key to the success, the fresh food. … Salsa out of a can would just not fly with me.”
Sharon’s also proud of Taco Pacifico’s signature housemade corn tortilla chips, which form the base of its nachos loaded with cheese, smoky black beans, pico de gallo, jalapenos, sour cream and customer’s choice of meat or veggies. They’re also available in a family-size bag for $7. He says he’d like to mass-produce them for further sale, but “doing so in a way not to affect the integrity of the product.”
In five years, Taco Pacifico’s mobile vending, from cart to truck, has “a great following, very, very loyal, very dedicated customers,” Sharon says. “There’s always talk of a brick and mortar, but I never really pull the trigger on that one. But it keeps evolving and it keeps growing, and that’s part of the journey and the excitement.”
>>Taco Pacifico parks in Madison and at the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets and is available for private catering. Information: 888-789-TACO (8226); tacopacifico.com.