A new fleet of food trucks are vying for street food dominance in Detroit, with its first trio hitting Southwest Detroit over the past month or so. Tacos del Barrio and the Real Boss, described as a barbecue-centric food truck, are already posted up on the empty space of a car wash at West Vernor Highway at Dix, complete with covered outdoor seating, music reverberating throughout the dining area, and a handful of oversized Tamarack chairs painted in the colors of several Latin American flags.
A second Tacos del Barrio location sits at West Vernor and Central and the father and son duo behind the venture, Christian and Julián Muñoz, say they’re poised to add another 10 food trucks (five Tacos del Barrio and five Real Boss trucks) in the coming months.
“He wanted to get a new experience out and try fresh every day new ingredients, throw out all the old everything new. We also we saw that there weren’t any other things but taco trucks. So we did the barbecue truck as well and that one has been a hit so far, too,” says Julian Muñoz.
While a food truck influx has infiltrated Southwest Detroit’s already robust mobile eatery scene in recent years as local restaurants and entrepreneurs have used pandemic times to embrace outdoor dining, this fleet is aiming to set itself apart in the way it operates. For one, the Muñozes own the lots where their trucks are currently located. Frequently, food truck operators in the neighborhood lease the space they occupy, offering a reliable place where customers can find them. Christian Muñoz purchased the car wash at Vernor and Dix about two years ago. At the time, one of the stalwart El Parian taco trucks had been renting the lot on that property for some 14 years. He says once he took over ownership of the car wash and lot, it got him thinking: Why not open a food truck business of his own where he could use his properties rent-free to sell food? When Parian’s lease expired, the Muñozes were on their way to opening their own food trucks.
Each truck is fully staffed with employees, rather than being run by an individual family, as is common among many food truck operators in the area. Christian Muñoz says he’s turned to his staff to help develop the menu. For example, he enlisted the expertise of employee Alfonso Jimenez who shared his family recipe for tacos al pastor. The family also spent more than a year working to perfect its birria recipe, keeping in mind the wild nationwide popularity of the chili-stewed meat. For The Real Boss menu, the Muñozes drew from their Argentinian heritage for parts of its offerings. The Choriboy sandwich, for example, features an Argentine-style sausage, while the Steak Bomba comes loaded with garlicky chimichurri.
The company also owns its own commissary kitchen in the area, avoiding the pitfalls that other operators encounter when having to pay a local restaurant to use their kitchen for their commissary space. All food truck operators in Michigan must have adequate space to prep and store food, thus the commissary kitchen requirement.
“We do everything in house,” says Julián Muñoz. “Everything from the workers, trucks, everything.”
If this sounds like an ambitious undertaking, it’s because the Muñozes are intimately familiar with developing properties throughout Michigan, albeit on a different scale. The family is affiliated with Muñoz Realty, helmed by Gastón Muñoz. The company has more than 200 employees and is known for fully rehabbing investment properties throughout the Detroit region. Julián Muñoz is a realtor with the company, and Christian Muñoz says the family’s connection to the local trades gave them an advantage for constructing the trucks’ outdoor seating areas.
The father and son say they have plans to add more Tacos del Barrio, Real Boss, and trucks offering other cuisine to their repertoire, and not only in Southwest Detroit, where the bulk of reliably available food trucks currently operate in the city.
“We’re looking to get different types of food trucks so everyone could come in. You’re not feeling tacos? You could get a sandwich or not really feeling a sandwich you get some tacos and some birria or you can get some ramen or loaded fries,” says Julián Muñoz.