DSC Member: Mario Melendez, Tacos, Ya Mon

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Let’s talk tacos. For the better part of a decade, Rasta Taco founder Mario Melendez has been slingin’ his brand of the Mexican street-food staple (with a Caribbean twist) from a custom-made food cart. (Take that food-truck trend.) And with a brick-and-mortar location in the works, he shows no signs of slowing his roll. Recently, Mario brought his asadas, salsas and tortillas to the twentieth anniversary Los Angeles Art Show, where we tagged along to watch him feed the hungry masses.

Q: What was the inspiration for Rasta Taco? 

A: About 10 years ago, I was traveling in Jamaica. I noticed the jerk-chicken stands alongside the road, which resembled Mexican taco stands, and was immediately inspired. In fact, I bought the URL for Rasta Taco on that trip.

Q:  How do you give your tacos a Jamaican flavor? 

A: A couple of different ways. Our chicken is rubbed in Jamaican spices, and our Island Fusion salsa is made with pineapple, curry and blackened green Habañero peppers.

Q:  Why a taco cart over a food truck? 

A: Over the years, plenty of people have asked us to do a food truck. But I didn’t want to be involved in a trend; I wanted to create one. Our niche is the ability to cater in someone’s backyard.

Q:  What’s your favorite taco? 

A: It’s quite boring, actually: Just a basic open-flame, carne asada taco with salsa, onion, cilantro and lime wedge, double-wrapped in corn tortillas and served with an ice cold Mexican Coke.

Q:  Will you ever abandon the cart? 

A: No. But after nine long years, a brick-and-mortar restaurant is coming. The master concept is to develop a reggae-themed, casual Mexican eatery. We’ve been looking for the right location for about a year. But I know it’s all about timing. I look at it like I’m meeting destiny halfway.

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