Going to a food truck roundup is like visiting Disney World. Bright colors, hearty meals, and long lines amass in an almost euphoric flurry. The trucks seem to simply appear before your eyes, delivering mouth-watering goodness.
Behind the scenes is Tania Ramirez, the diligent owner of Food Cart USA, whose customers she says deem her the mobile food "Mother Teresa." Her company oveersees trucks through their whole lifespan, starting with building and designing them, continuing with requesting permits and even scheduling roundups.
Originally from San Diego, California, Ramirez was in the food truck business with her ex-husband for 15 years, building gourmet food trucks. After getting divorced, she moved to South Florida with her 2-month-old daughter Crystal.
"We were two females who came to South Florida with nothing and had no idea what to do," Ramirez said.
When she saw that Miami didn't have any mobile food vendors on the streets, she decided to take matters into her own hands. "At one point I wanted to bring a chef from Mexico over to make a gourmet truck and sell food myself, but then I thought, Why not build them for other people?"
And from there, trucks began appearing on the South Florida grid. It began with Latin Burger & Taco, then grew to include Jefe's Original Fish Taco & Burgers, Nacho Mama, the Fish Box, and 51 other gourmet trucks in Miami, with around 200 more in the United States.
On top of that, her first food truck rally on SW 65th Ave. and Bird Rd. started with six trucks. Now, she plans roundups all over South Florida that host around 30 trucks at a time - and the spots fill up fast.
Despite the rapidly growing company, Ramirez says the most important thing to her is her relationship with her customers.
"She goes out of her way. She's available 24 hours a day for them," Crystal said. "People are not just customers. She establishes friendships with them."
Ramirez calls it a family business, not just because she works with her entire extended family, but because she treats her customers like family.
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According to Heins, Ramirez offers the support the trucks need, including getting them back on the road as soon as possible if they break down.
Money is no issue for her either. If a potential owner can't pay the base $45,000 it takes to customize their truck, Ramirez is always open to making an exception.
"We all need to make money, but at the end of the day, if I have a customer that doesn't have it, they're still going to get out of here with a truck," she said. "We know how hard we struggled to make it to where we are now, so we make sure everyone else has that chance."
So, who are the next members of her extended food family going to be? Ramirez says there will be about eight new trucks coming out in the next month and a half, including ones from Islas Canarias and Pollo Tropical. Looks like we're going to be eating Cuban for a while.