It's the day of the tacos in Marquette, or least it will be if Mike Walker has anything to say about it. That's because Walker will be bringing a new food truck, Dia de los Tacos
, to the streets of Marquette in March.
"The plan is to sell tacos and be delicious," Walker says.
The idea to open a food truck came from Walker's years of experience in food service. Now 37, Walker started his career here in Marquette, at the age of 15, doing dishes at the Ramada Inn. After years spent working in the U.P. and across the country, Walker most recently served as manager for Upfront & Company until its abrupt November closure.
Walker watched his coworkers apply for every restaurant position in the city, but he didn't follow suit.
"There aren't enough jobs in town to do this," Walker says. "Let's try to create one or two [jobs]." From there, Dia de los Tacos was born. The taco truck will employ one full time and two part-time employees along with Walker.
But why tacos?
"Why not tacos?" Walker asks. "First of all, I love tacos," he says. "I can't imagine anything else I'd want to make… and eat that often."
Walker will offer more than the traditional tacos you find at many locations.
"People want something besides the ground beef," he says. On his menu, you can expect to find around ten choices. One will be a mildly spiced chicken taco. Another will be a hand-made chorizo sausage. He also plans on offering pupusas—thick corn cakes that are the national dish of El Salvador. Each item is made fresh to order with the prep work done at a commercial kitchen he shares with a banquet company.
Walker's menu will also fill another gap in the community—a lack of restaurants featuring gluten-free options. "A growing number in this area are showing gluten intolerance," he says.
Gluten intolerance is sensitivity to proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten intolerance can result in symptoms including abdominal pain, swelling and diarrhea, and can also be a sign of the more serious celiac disease.
The menu at Dia de los Tacos is actually naturally gluten-free, Walker says. Using a number of corn-based products, people with gluten intolerance, such as Walker himself, will be able to enjoy a meal out without worry.
"Mexican food, and tacos in particular, are easy to be gluten-free," he says. "You can do anything with them."
Walker will be running his new food truck seven days a week, aiming for at least 60 hours on the street. You can expect to find Dia de los Tacos anywhere there are hungry people, like late nights on Washington and Third streets, lunchtime downtown, or at NMU when games are getting out.
After the truck opens, Walker's long-term plans include adding a second truck in about a year and eventually opening a brick and mortar restaurant, also in Marquette. It's all part of a culture Walker wants to help bring to Marquette.
"I absolutely love Marquette and the U.P.," Walker says.
Lee F. Brown is a freelance journalist, novelist and restaurant manager who has lived in the U.P. his whole life. A graduate of Michigan Technological University, Lee resides in Marquette with his wife and three children.