We want people to try the food. If you try, we think you can come and eat in our place.
By Yanshu Li
Ever since Simeng Dai, a native Chinese, tried the Torta with roasted beef, she started expecting the Tenoch food track every Thursday.
“Tenoch reminds me the torta and the good time I had when I roamed around San Miguel De Allende in Mexico,” Dai said. Dai is a journalism graduate student at Boston University.
She traveled to Mexico a year ago, and was amazed by the colorful Mexican views and the good inexpensive food on the streets.
The following Thursday, she ordered a Torta de Pescado, which is bread with baked Tilapia fish. It was accidentally eaten by a professor’s dog. She immediately went back and bought a new one.
Tenoch food truck sells authentic Mexican food, such as torta, taco, and burrito, at a price around $7. They parked on the open lane close to the College of Communication at B.U. Several people usually would be waiting already before they open the vending window.
Andres Sandoval, who manages the truck, would stretch his head out of the shotgun’s window and say they will be ready to serve in a minute with a warm smile.
The Tenoch brand had its first business in 2012, a restaurant in Medford Square. Recently it opened a new one in Boston North End. It also owns two food trucks, named El Jarocho and Tenoch Móvil. The co-owners also brothers Alvaro and Andres Sandoval run them.
During the weekdays, Alvaro Sandoval manages the El Jarocho. Andres manages the Tenoch Móvil; the one appears on Boston University campus on Thursdays.
They picked B.U. because the open space of the campus allows people going in groups.
“We love B.U.” Sandoval said. “When you have a line, it keeps your time to prepare the things in our way (sic).”
If Tenoch loves B.U. is because of the food truck business-friendly campus, B.U students love Tenoch is purely for the tasty food and the moderate price.
“Tenoch means the WORLD to me,” Jun Tsuboike, a Japanese-American, said. He is a senior studying in photojournalism.
Recommended by a professor, the first time he ordered Torta Campechana, bread with braised pork and sausages. Then it became his go-to order.
“What makes it so good is the chipotle sauce. There’s something magical about the texture and smokiness that binds the other fillings together,” Tsuboike said.
The two trucks also appear on Dewey Square, Cambridge Park Drive and Stuart St. on weekdays.
“I like all the places,” Alvaro Sandoval added. “You know more people.”
Tenoch’s first food truck El Jarocho was not exactly a truck; it’s a trailer. But the inside equipped the same level of productivity.
“We debuted in S.O.W.A. on May 5th, 2013,” Alvaro Sandoval recalled with a glorious smile. “It went well right away.”
S.O.W.A., the South End Open Market, is the biggest market in Boston for food trucks. The vendors pay $400 for each time selling in the marketplace.
Began from 11 a.m., the food went out by 2:30 p.m. The market usually ended by 5 p.m.
“We ran out of food just like that,” snapping his figures, Alvaro Sandoval smiled. “So they already know this brand has good food. I think we blend in.”
Alvaro Sandoval was the first person in his family who came to the states, in 1999, when he was 21 years old.
“I thought about coming here for a few years, see what happens,” he said.
He met an American girl and fell in love. Although he had to go back to Mexico when the young lovers were still dating, he managed to come back to the states. His brother Andres followed two years later.
Alvaro Sandoval first worked as a busboy in a restaurant. Then he changed to the field of construction for a few years. Eventually, he settled in Medford in 2012.
The brothers began to miss the food that they had in their house back in Veracruz, a town in the southeast of Mexico. They missed what their mother had cooked for them at home. It felt like an itch in their minds that were rhythmic with the babbling waves from the Gulf of Mexico.
The best remedy for homesick was the food.
“What we eat in our home, in my house,” he meant in Mexico, “I keep just eating this. And we decide to bring that to people, the customers the people try, and hopefully, they like it.”
Two months later after settling down, they opened Tenoch, a restaurant serving authentic Mexican food in Medford.
They have torta, taco and burrito, and all the typical homemade Mexican food.
Although, the genuine thought did not work very well at the beginning.
“The hardest part was to let the name out, it’s hard,” he said. “To get people know who you are. That’s the hardest part.”
It began with small groups of customers that became regulars, once they found out Tenoch had something special. They shared their experience with their friends, friends of friends. Gradually more and more customers came, the business took off.
“In words of mouth, that’s how people know us,” Sandoval said.
Meanwhile, he found the great help from social media. Other than putting information on the website waiting to find out, Sandoval uses the social media marketing to spread the news, on Facebook, Twitter and later on Instagram.
“If I put a message on social media, it would pop on your feed. So you will get it far away,” he said, pointing the Tenoch Facebook page.
But Sandoval never stopped looking for new ways to promote the business. That’s when the food truck came to the radar of his marketing savvy.
“We want people to try the food. If you try, we think you can come and eat at our place,” he explained frankly.
This May 3rd, Sunday, in S.O.W.A. Market, crowding Bostonian eaters were good with the engine noise and the loud music made by more than dozen of colorful food trucks.
The waiting line for Tenoch truck was wriggly long.
“If we are there, forget it, we will be massive.” The co-owner said. “They look for us.”
Alvaro Sandoval popped out of the vending window to reach the maximum volume of the costumers’ voice to take their orders and nodded sincerely. Sometimes he casually chatted a bit with them.
The cash drawer, which was used to put in the cashier machine, now was on the stainless steel windowsill outside the truck. The customers did the update themselves, while Sandoval and his staff preparing the food. Like an agreement that was already so familiar with the clients and the Tenoch food truck.
After each item was sold out, Sandoval stepped out of the truck from the side door, and covered the item names by a paper tape.
The waiting line didn’t seem to fidget in the 65-degree beautiful weather at the beginning of summer. The female customers were wearing flowery skirts while male dressed in shorts and T-shirts. Some of them were with dogs. Young parents were talking to each other while holding the stroller of a kid. A man was talking to his girlfriend, holding a bouquet of lilies.
Around 3:30 p.m., Sandoval taped all the torta items.
“Oh, no!…” many of the customers exclaimed, especially Mari Gonzalez, a resident who was from New Mexico. She was expecting Torta Campechana.
“It’s gone,” she said in disappointment. “Now I have to decide Burrito or Enchiladas.”
Past four p.m., only three items left on the menu, with about 20 customers left. They had no will to leave. The man supported the bouquet by his right shoulder and continued to wait.
The customer who just got a chance to order seemed in great joy. Some of them instantly started eating standing not far away from the truck.
Regina Daley, the last customer, has waited for 15 minutes.
“It’s worth the wait,” she said.
The tide in the market disappeared after five p.m. Alvaro Sandoval closed the vending window, and opened a bottle of coke.
“S.O.W.A. is a great venue,” he said. “You would probably spend more on marketing than start the things and selling things here.”
Collecting the rest of the business cards on the windowsill, he was happy to see there were only around twenty cards left.
“Look at this, we had two bulks of business cards, now it’s all it left,” he said.
He assumed that there were about 350 customers that day. Everyone has a different opinion on what’s the best in Tenoch, and Sandoval sure has a secret ingredient.
“All of it is secret!” Sandoval said, laughing loudly.
Every day after the two trucks sold-out, they went back and met each other at Medford, their base camp. The Medford restaurant is still the biggest in his business, with more options and more staff.
The cooking remained unchanged from the way they grew up having, but Sandoval has adapted to the American way of life.
“Nobody bothers you here; it’s peace (sic),” Alvaro Sandoval said. “And in many ways that Mexico doesn’t have. I adapted very quickly, and I like what it’s been giving me.”
Alvaro Sandoval married to his loving woman after he came back to America. Now it’s a happy family of husband and wife and two kids, seven and five years old.
When Alvaro Sandoval mentioned his home country, he always pronounced as ME-HEE-CO. For him, that is home.
Talking about the dream of his life, he said, “I keep it for me, that one.”