On an unassuming night on an ordinary downtown street, a truck will appear. Along with the bright light emerging from the vehicle (a pop-up camper to be exact) are the enveloping smells and sizzling sounds of “the taco truck down the street from Fong’s Pizza.” Formally known as: Roadside Tacos.
Owner Grant Montour is at the ready when the nighttime crowd is drawn by its offerings, mysterious but unequivocally appetizing.
“The menu is basically just more of an American on Mexican,” Montour said about the culinary delights of the truck. “It’s kind of like what your mom makes at home.”
Montour grew up on this quick-serve sort of approach to food. His parents owned a couple of restaurants in the Kaleidoscope at the Hub when he was a kid. When he turned 18, he and his father purchased a taco cart and operated out of Nollen Plaza (it was not a construction zone then). He managed the cart the rest of his teen years, as a lucrative entrance into the biz.
Roadside Tacos opened for business in June 2014.
Montour lives in Carlisle, where the truck is during the day. He usually rolls downtown Wednesday through Saturday night, sets up at 8 p.m. and opens about 9:30 p.m.
“I was actually going to buy a pizza trailer from Old Chicago, but my dad said, ‘Do tacos; it will sell,’ ” Montour said.
This is where the camper enters the gastro game.
“It’s an old pop-up camper we bought about five or six years ago and that’s what it was! It was just our camper,” Montour said. “It has been to Rathbun Lake, Myrtle Beach and Washington, D.C. until it was retired in the backyard for a couple years.”
Montour revamped the camper into a gas grill, kitchen-ready for food prep and service. Warm, sizzling, cheesy (and great for soaking up alcohol), Montour’s menu meets exactly what your late-night buds crave: tacos, burritos, quesadillas and nachos.
King of the scene?
The Big Ass Stuffed Burrito. Ten dollars may seem like a little much, but wrapped inside is totally-worth-it taco goodness.
“I let the ingredients speak for themselves,” Montour said. “I make sure everything is fresh ... lettuce, tomatoes, green onion and jalapenos are cut fresh every night.”
On the truck’s busiest night (Friday about 1 a.m.) I stopped by to greet my vegetarian face with some cheesy grub.
I ordered the nachos, piled high with veggies and a drizzling of sour cream. On the side, a cheese quesadilla draped in chunky salsa.
At $5 each, both dishes were filling and perfect for splitting.
Roadside Tacos accepts cash and card, so feel free to add on the extras, like rice and beans.
As far as downtown food truck operations, Montour expects growth on the scene.
“I think it is going to raise the bar as far as culinary things going on out of Des Moines,” Montour said.
Regardless, he will keep grilling up satisfaction in the form of another late night eating option.
Find it: 4th St. Des Moines; 840 School St., Carlisle
Hours: change daily, see website for schedule