Tacos El Primo: A Lake Street food truck staple built by family from the ground-up – Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal – Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

When Fernando Aguilar Ramirez, founder and owner of Tacos El Primo, came to Minneapolis from Mexico in 1996, he brought with him a love for cooking. He ran a concession food trailer in the Mexican city of Salamanca, but had to leave the trailer behind when he traveled to the United States.
Ramirez returned to cooking when some friends who worked as roofers asked him to cook lunch for them.
What started as only a few meals per day quickly turned into Ramirez providing tacos and tamales for 10 different roofing companies across the area. By the mid-2000s, he went from making $400 per week at a factory to bringing in $800 per day serving food to roofers.
The operation took off from there. Tacos El Primo, begun in Ramirez’s family kitchen, now has one permanent food truck at 1405 E. Lake St. and a restaurant at 3909 Minnehaha Ave.
Tacos El Primo has a second food truck for catering and party events, and Ramirez is working on a third — a process that takes time because he designs and outfits the trucks himself.
It can cost upwards of $100,000 to buy a new food truck with a fully equipped kitchen. Building the trucks himself allows Ramirez to save on costs and to tailor the trucks specifically to his business needs.
“He doesn’t want to just buy a food truck that’s not made for his business, so building everything himself is very helpful,” said Fernando Aguilar Ortega, Ramirez’s son, who helped helped translate his dad’s comments.
Ramirez opened the Lake Street food truck in 2011. While some small restaurants struggle to find customers at first, Ortega said that his father’s truck took off right from the start, mainly because of the connections Ramirez made by serving food to the roofers for six years before.
The Covid-19 pandemic dealt the business a setback, as plans for the restaurant on Minnehaha, which opened in early 2020, were halted as Tacos El Primo struggled to find and keep employees.
However, as pandemic restrictions have eased, plans are back on track for growing the restaurant. Ortega said his dad chose the space on Minnehaha to bring more diverse cuisine to that part of Minneapolis, and Ramirez plans to remodel the restaurant with added bar space.
Ramirez and his family are preparing paperwork to apply for a $500,000 loan to fund the remodel. He hopes to secure the loan and begin remodeling the restaurant by the end of the year.
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