Food, Wine & Spirits in St. Louis

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 / 1:20 PM

And Yet Another Food Truck--Hot Aztec--Hits The Streets

In August, when SLM was assembling the "St. Louis Food Truck Guide," as part of its "Best New Restaurants" package for the October 2011 issue, the number of trucks stood at 16. Two months later, the number stands at roughly 25. 

The latest to hit its ignition switch is Hot Aztec, a Mexican-themed version that, at 26 feet long, may be the longest food truck in town. The owners are Rob and Dana Gardaphe, who were raised in Mexico; Bob's mother, Gertrude Barrios, born and raised in southern Mexico, contributed many of the family's recipes. "Southern" is the key word here, and the key difference. 

Bob Gardaphe explains that most local Mexican-style street food is "more what you'd find in norhern Mexico," and that Aztec "will lean more toward Mexico City-style street food." What's the diff? In the north, meats are the protein of choice; in the south, it's more chicken, seafood, and vegetables. And although Aztec will have northern-based staples like carne asada, Gardaphe says to look for "new flavors, styles, and tastes," under the moniker of Gourmet Mexican Street Food

Offerings will range from standard tacos al pastor to varieties possibly made from lengua and cabeza, as "they're the ones that taste the best," according to Gardaphe (and we don't disagree). He also lays claim to several versions of mole that he promises will impress, plus there'll be tortas, churros, albóndigas, and tres leches-based pastries. And nice, too, that Aztec is equipped with both grill and griddle, so cooking items to order will not be an issue, as it is with some trucks. 

Aztec has been "20 years in the works," according to Gardaphe, who's spent his career in the restaurant business working for biggies such as Darden, Tippin's, KC Masterpiece, and St. Louis Bread Co. We're told that the website (, Twitter account, and Facebook page should all be activated tomorrow and that Hot Aztec should be rolling within 2 weeks.  

Gardaphe's passion for the biz began early, at age five, when he "built a restaurant in my own backyard." Just after Thanksgiving, he can finally launch a version of the real thing. 

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