Profile: White Boy Tacos feeds foodies and the hungry homeless
Los Angeles, California, has been a leader in the vibrant food mobile scene which is very much a reflection of the city’s ethnic diversity. Latinos, Asians and African-Americans make-up almost 70 percent of the population. Adventurous foodies can go around the corner and find everything from sushi burritos, to tacos made with collard greens, to kimchi quesadillas.
In this FSRN profile, Lena Nozizwe reports from downtown Los Angeles where helping the homeless is also an ingredient at a food stand called White Boy Tacos.
The seating is all plastic. The ambiance, especially around midnight, is decidedly extemporaneous. And at White Boy Tacos, an al fresco dining spot in downtown Los Angeles, California, the chef is your server.
Ben McMillan opened shop near Seventh and Broadway this past spring with nothing more than a shoestring budget and a dream.
“I just kind of wanted to be my own boss, kind of tired of working for the man to be honest. So one day I kind of assessed my situation to see what I could do to start a business and my situation kind of came back ‘food cart,’ McMillan recalls. “I was in the restaurant industry, so I knew I could pull it off. And I had to kinda come up with a brand and a product and it all fell into place.”
A former restaurant manager, McMillan now works on the edge of Skid Row, a 50-block area that hosts what’s estimated to be the most concentrated homeless population in the United States — more than 17,000 people.
So he tries to add a dash of social justice to his taco recipes – whether they call for tofu steeped in orange juice or whisky marinated steak.
“If you get three or more tacos or a burrito, I do a little thing where I give you one of these little raffle tickets,” McMillan explains. “You give that to a homeless person and they bring it back for a free taco.”
“And have people done that a lot?” FSRN asks.
“Oh yeah, yeah, I give a lot out. I don’t get as many back as I give out, but that’s to be expected,” McMillan responds.
Giving the food away free to anyone who presents a coupon is his way of giving back to the area’s homeless community.
“That’s even more reason to come over here to buy tacos, because you are doing something good,” says Luisana Rodriquez, who, with her boyfriend Johnny Ruvalcava, drove almost 30 minutes to eat at White Boy Tacos on a recent Taco Tuesday. And their journey had nothing to do with philanthropy; Ruvalcava is a foodie.
“I’m catching you mid taco. A review, please?” FSRN asks.
“It’s amazing. A great taco,” Ruvalcava responds. “The bell peppers, they way they play with the chicken, it’s amazing.”
Food cart ownership has long been a staple of immigrants, but Ruvalcava and Rodriquez, who are both Latino, see no problem with White Boy Tacos being a part of that food squad.
“Better than Mom or Grandma’s?” FSRN asks.
“Better than, well – no comment,” Rodriquez responds.
“I’ll get in trouble if I say yes,” adds Ruvalcava.
Through his humble food stand, White Boy Taco owner Ben McMillan has found a way to serve both foodies, who hunger for something new, and the homeless, who are simply hungry.