El Paraiso is a Mexican food truck based in the Southwest part of Bakersfield, CA. This town is no stranger to the slew of street style Mexican food trucks, but El Paraiso manages to stand out as being one of the best in town. Not only does the physical appearance differentiate this establishment from the others, but the food is the real celebrity of this unique truck. El Paraiso started its business around 2005, and still manages to provide tasty Mexican food to SW Bakersfield. Upon arriving to the restaurant, you immediately notice bright yellow and red colors among the otherwise industrial setting. The trailer also includes 4 long tables, plenty of chairs, a TV, and an awning over the seating area so that you may eat your food very comfortably.
Now lets talk about the food! Ever since my very first taste of El Paraiso’s food, about 6 years ago, I’ve been hooked! One major thing that sets El Paraiso apart is their passion for making good food. Everything there is made fresh and made-to-order. It is all made with care and never will you receive a sloppy, greasy, unflattering, or hard to eat meal (which I’ve experienced a lot from other places around Bakersfield). They also make their hot sauce from scratch (one of the best I’ve had), which is amazingly flavorful and spicy. When we sat down with the manger, Jose Contreras said “that’s one thing we really wanted was to provide a really good spicy sauce”. I would say they succeeded in creating a masterpiece of a hot sauce! So good in fact that we suggested they sell a standalone version of it. When you look through the menu, you will notice that they do provide the usual Mexican food dishes. You’ll be familiar with the tacos, burritos, tortas, tostadas, rice, beans, and seafood, but the flavor of all these items will be like nothing you’ve had before. They also manage to consistently provide fresh ingredients for their meals. Everything is colorful, never old, and a big plus for me is that their lemon/limes are usually always juicy.
El Paraiso has remained a hidden gem in the S.W. side of Bakersfield, but that does not stop customers driving in from places like Delano and Shafter, just to get their fix. We are big fans of their food and once you try it, we are positive you’ll be a fan too!
We got to sit down with Jose (manager) of El Paraiso and asked him a few questions about the business:
How did “El Paraiso” get it’s start?
“El Paraiso started from my dad’s inspiration through his recipes. Whenever we had family gatherings, my dad would prepare ceviche or tacos on his little grill. He would go to the market and buy specific kinds of meats to make the tacos and ceviche. It was mostly through the feedback from his ceviche, my family would say ‘wow, this is good stuff’ and ‘you need to start a restaurant’. They always told us that we needed to start something because the all the other ceviche out there are usually made with lots of vegetables and not enough of the fish or the shrimp, which is mostly what ceviche is all about. After recommendations from family members, my dad started to save money, bought a little taco stand, and from there just started expanding. We got some of our ideas from a couple of my uncles in Chicago who have restaurants over there. One of them flew down and worked with us for two years and helped up expand our menu and our business.”
Did you all start with the truck you have now?
“We first started with a trailer that we had, then later refinanced our home , and used that money to purchase the trailer that we have now. Back at around 2004, we noticed that there weren’t a lot of taco stands or trailers; street food basically, there wasn’t a whole lot of Mexican street food going on around here. We come from East Los Angeles, and over there you see one in almost every corner, they are well populated, and each bring to the table something that everyone likes. That was another inspiration for my dad, since there wasn’t a lot here, we figured it would be a good idea and investment to start our own street food joint.”
What is your favorite meal to make?
“My dad’s favorite meal to eat are the tacos. He really likes the old-style carne asada with just salt and pepper and grilled onions on the side. He isn’t too fancy on all of the condiments that the other places use. I really the pastor that we make. So my favorite meal is pastor tacos and pastor tortas.”
So how would you say El Paraiso is different than all of the other lunch trucks around Bakersfield?
“I think it’s different in the way that we are able to customize an order to however our customer wants it. We try to satisfy a person’s cravings no matter how strange an order might be. We are also very simplistic with our prices. We don’t charge taxes and keep everything simple. If a burrito is priced at 5 dollars then, that is what the customer pays. It makes it much easier on the customer and on us as well; with having to give out change and all.”
What lead you to pick that location for your truck?
“We wanted to find something local, something that was close to where we live, and a place where there wasn’t a lot of direct competition. Our location is in a high-traffic commercial area with lots of space. It was the best area out of about four different locations that we looked at. The property owner there at the time was willing to deal with us and it worked out well from there. Talking again about the space, a lot of truckers are able to pull right in and get out easily. Some of them rather not do that, so they are actually able to park on the street. Since we are right on the corner of Ashe and District, we are easy to spot and it’s easy to give directions.”
Tell us a little more about the menu.
“Sure! We have all of the typical Mexican quick foods like burritos, tacos, tortas, quesadillas, ceviche, tostadas, shrimp cocktail, we also delve a little into the Mexican seafood.”
Regarding your inventory, do you all shop locally or get your food from distributors?
“Yes, all of the supplies we get are from local vendors and markets. It’s all fresh, so we go every other day and make all of our purchases.”
What would you say are your more popular items?
“Our top selling items would probably be the carne asada burrito, quesadillas, and customers love our pastor tacos! The pastor is basically made from scratch, we don’t buy any sauces from anywhere. All the ingredients are purchased locally and then everything is home-made. We prepare everything at home and don’t have to rely on a third-party to help us get our food to how we want it.”
Does El Paraiso cater?
“We did that for the first four or five years, but since then have discontinued it. The trailer we have is not really built to be mobile, it’s more made to be stationary. In the past when we’ve catered, we noticed a lot of speed bumps or the truck wouldn’t fit in the area we needed to be. Basically it’s because of a lot of external issues that would affect the physical aspect of the truck. Also, at the moment we don’t have a small little stand that we can work with. When we did cater, often times we would book a client to feed 50 people and 90 would show up. It really just started to become very inconvenient for us. Although we do welcome any large orders, so we can cater in that aspect, but we just no longer go on-location to cater. So if anyone wanted to call ahead of time and order 40 or 50 burritos or tacos, we are more than happy to complete that order and then they can just come pick it up.”
Is there anything on the menu that is a secret family recipe?
“Yeah, our secret recipe would be our adobo sauce which is home-made. I would say the adobo sauce that makes the pastor a pretty unique characteristic of our establishment.”
Tell me, what’s it like to know that truckers are coming from all around the country, tasting your food, and thinking in the back of their mind “man, I cannot wait to get back to California to get some more that food!”
“We have had customers say that they couldn’t wait to get here to eat. I think it’s very complimentary and a nice thing to know that people are anticipating going to our place. It’s not like they are just going to have lunch, they are going because they want to have some good grub. It really inspires us to keep doing what we do.”
What are some of the long-term thoughts for your truck?
“Well, right now it’s almost going to be 8 years doing this business in the same location. My dad recently has been interested in selling the establishment, although he is not really advertising selling the business, he is just open to the idea. He may be interested in handing it over to someone that wants to take over or expand the business to take care of it. We have received a lot of feedback from customers that say our food stands on it’s own and marks it’s own territory. Who knows, maybe someone would want to be an associate of sorts and someday sell our business. As far as ourselves, turning this into a restaurant would require personnel and much more of an investment. Right now we make enough to cover the bills and maintain a humble living.”
So if your dad were to sell the business, what would you do?
“Currently i’m attending Bakersfield College, but I eventually want to go to a four-year. I have my girlfriend’s full support for that and i’m very thankful that I have someone that encourages me to move on in an academic sense and to continue my educational career. I might be heading into some sort of social work, something involving society. I’m really into the topic of sociology, well the psychology behind sociological elements and social trends; so i’ll probably be pursuing something along those lines. Also perhaps teaching? I follow a lot of my girlfriend’s advise. She tells me that I might be a good teacher, so I might try and pursue that as well. Something that I can do to affect other people in a positive way, affect the community and help make it a better, more thoughtful environment for everyone around.”
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri, 7:30 am – 3pm
6500 District Blvd.
Bakersfield, CA 93313
Photos By: Robert Bejil Photography