Alex and Maribeth del Castillo launched their taco-peddling food truck Taceaux Loceaux (@TLNola) in 2010. This month, the couple will open their first brick and mortar restaurant of the same name at 737 Octavia St. A pioneer in the local food truck scene, Taceaux Loceaux garnered a following in part because of the couple’s use of social media. Alex del Castillo spoke with Gambit about the food truck and the restaurant.
Gambit: Tell us about your restaurant.
Del Castillo: It’s going to be all the basics from the truck, but expanded. A lot of the things that we used to do as specials we’ll do more often. We’ve also got a trompo — a vertical spit (often used to make al pastor). We’ll have all the main tacos and the avocado fries. Someday I’ll probably own an avocado grove if all things go well because we can never stop selling those things.
G: What have you learned about running a food truck?
DC: The main thing is knowing to have everything you need once you pull up. You also learn every pothole in a neighborhood, and you actually change your route just to find better roads.
I remember when they were still legitimizing the trucks, everyone was talking about how it was so much easier for food trucks (to operate), and I think that’s not true. There’s another layer of complexity. You have to maintain two kitchens, and (during the summer) it’s hot. You can’t effectively air condition a food truck that’s cooking food, or it would take a ridiculous amount of energy to do it — more than you could bring on a truck. Sometimes lunch isn’t the best idea. On a hot New Orleans day, nobody wants to get out of their office and have to take a shower when they come back from lunch.
It’s going to be exciting to work in an air-conditioned space and serve people that would never have eaten from a truck or don’t want to stand on the side of a bar to get food. And it will be nice to serve our own margaritas.
Last month, he opened a Mexican restaurant, Otra Vez, in the Warehouse District.
G: Your business was one of the pioneers in New Orleans when it came to advertising your location through social media. What was that learning curve like?
DC: That was very much the key to our success. This was right when Twitter was coming out, and I’m not saying that I invented taking pictures of your food or tweeting them, but I did (push) the Twitter thing. I got a Facebook page and started teasing it a little bit before we open (the restaurant).
It’s like anything else with social media — you have to be honest. People can tell if it’s you or if it’s paid marketing. I think Instagram is probably the main go-to for food now.
A lot of it has to do with who you follow, and it’s hard to do it well if you’re not personally involved. (Chicago chef/restaurateur) Rick Bayless did his own stuff. A lot of local (restaurants) do their own thing, and I think it matters. You need to have some kind of a presence if you want to grow. It’s more cost-efficient than advertising. Social media was really disruptive in that way, but it will never (relieve) you of having a good product, because if you screw up, everybody is going to know about it in five minutes.