Next time you cruise through Joplin, Missouri, keep your eyes peeled for “Let’s Taco-Bout It” T-shirts. You can trace the pun-tastic taco apparel back to Ghetto Tacos, Joplin’s latest food truck.

When the taco shop first rolled onto the scene in 2016, owners Marcos and Carletta Renteria were just doing a favor for a friend who needed food for an event. Simple in execution but big on flavor, Renteria’s tacos were in hot demand. He regularly fielded requests for caterings, so when he got the opportunity to sell his tacos at the annual Maple Leaf Festival in Carthage, Missouri, he decided to go for it. Even then, Renteria figured it would be a one-time event. He’d sell out of tacos and then go back to catering gigs for friends and family. But before he knew it, his small side-hustle had become a full-time gig.

In early 2017, Renteria finally named his roaming taco venture, and Ghetto Tacos started hopping around Joplin events and showing up on busy street corners. Unlike most food trucks cruising the streets, Renteria’s operation has been almost totally open-air. It’s just him, a push cart he retrofitted with a flat-top grill and wheels, some folding tables and a pop-up tent. Despite limitations in size and storage, Renteria is focused on making as much as he can in house.

Meats are cut daily, and sauces and marinades are whipped up using closely guarded family recipes. The simple yet zesty salsa gets its burst of freshness from its lack of ingredients. “It’s just salt and garlic,” Renteria says of the seasoning. The recipe was a gift from his sister Meche, whose eponymous salsa is part of why Ghetto Tacos has been able to build a loyal crowd of customers. 

Renteria’s menu is simple. Fragile corn tortillas come loaded with your choice of beef, pastor with pineapple and onions, chicken or chorizo. Housemade sauces and salsa keep flavors fresh and bright, and Renteria plans to grow his own jalapeños and habaneros in an effort to make even more of the menu in house. He’s also experimenting with new tacos.

Barely a year since Ghetto Tacos first launched, Renteria is eagerly awaiting the completion of a custom-made food truck. The souped-up rig will give Ghetto Tacos much more kitchen space and make it a easier for Renteria to cater area events and business functions even in the harshest winter weather. It’s a size increase he likely needs considering his 2018 events calendar is already nearly booked. “It’s exciting and humbling for me,” Renteria says. “You’ve got a lot of people doing great food in this area, and there’s a lot of potential. But people are coming to get Ghetto Tacos.”

Ghetto Tacos, Joplin, Missouri, 417.438.4592, facebook.com/Ghettotacos417

Ettie is a writer and blogger in Springfield, Missouri.

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