MEBANE —Hugo Sosa came to North Carolina from Guadalajara, Mexico 20 years ago to begin his journey to becoming an architect.
What he found, however, was that he really enjoyed designing and building authentic Mexican food more than designing buildings. The Burlington resident opened the Burrito Bistro NC food trailer in Mebane about two months ago and has already had plenty of people following the food trailer’s whereabouts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Most of the time, the little 8-foot-wide by 14-foot-long food trailer is parked in the parking lot of the Valero gas station at 7615 Highway 70. While we hear about its flour tortillas from homemade corn that rocks his tacos, more and more Alamance and Orange Counties employers and special event planners are asking Sosa to bring them his food trailer.
Sosa tries to set itself apart from Mexican food trailers and restaurants featuring Mexican cuisine by keeping its menu small and making condiments, such as homemade salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, agua frescas and more.
“I make my food the traditional way,” Sosa said. “This is the food you would get if you came to my house and the way you would get it. Making the cornmeal batter then pressing each tortilla before making the taco takes longer, but for me, it’s worth it. There’s more flavor.”
The different shapes of the tortillas add character and let diners know that this is not some machine-made, machine-pressed tortilla that was made and bagged months ago.
The menu at Burrito Bistro NC is intentionally small. He’d rather do a few good things than offer lots of different foods and have to cut corners on quality. He is a small business butcher and cook.
Customers can choose from five different dishes: tacos (4 per order), burritos (wrapped in a tortilla or in a bowl), nachos, quesadilla or torta. Customers choose a meat for each, which includes lamb, carne asada, ground beef, chorizo, pork carnitas, or chicken.
Sides include fries, black beans, rice, pico de gallo, guacamole, cream, pickled onions, and cheese.
“We have a small space, so I didn’t want a huge menu,” he explained. “I want to do the food I prepare in the best way. It takes time, so that’s another reason why the menu is small. I do, so I control the quality.”
Employee Mary Baird praises Sosa’s attention to detail and quality.
“It’s all him,” she said. “He cares about his food and what he serves.”
He’s so handy that he cuts the carne asada meat himself from a 50-pound round piece of beef he buys. He first cleans off the unnecessary grease, then carefully turns the huge piece of beef into a mound of quarter-inch cubes.
Next, Sosa makes a sauce infused with guajillo peppers for the meat. The sauce is placed on the grill, then the meat is placed on the sauce. Sosa gives a few quick turns with his spatula and the carne asada is ready to be loaded into tacos and garnished with cilantro and onion.
“He’s like that with all his food,” she said. “His beans aren’t from a can. He soaks them overnight, then seasons them and slow-simmers them the next day. When people taste his food, they comment on how different his food tastes. C It’s different because it actually cooks it. It doesn’t reheat canned food.”
Sosa and Baird met while working together at a Mexican restaurant in Durham. When he decided to open his own food business, he knew he wanted Baird with him. She manages social media, books the trailer at area employers and special events, and works the storefront to take orders and payments.
“We work really well together,” Sosa said. “I wanted to do my own thing and I knew Mary would be the person to do that with.”
Sosa started working in the food industry 20 years ago when he arrived in North Carolina. His original plan was to go to college to become an architect. He attended college for a while, but needed a way to pay his bills and keep food on the table. It was then that he began a two-decade career working in Mexican restaurants in the area.
He said he’s seen customers walk in and be overwhelmed by five- to eight-page menus. He also saw the shortcuts some kitchens take to get food out quickly. He doesn’t want to be part of either,
“It’s simple food,” he said, “so I wanted to keep the menu simple.”
Sosa also prepares traditional Mexican drinks such as watermelon or Jamaican agua frescas daily. These are drinks mixing fruit and water with sugar and lime juice. One of the most popular is called Jamaica and is made from hibiscus flowers. The dark red drink is sweet and tart. He also makes horchata, a drink made from milk and rice, flavored with cinnamon.
Unless a local employer or special event organizer has booked Burrito Bistro NC, the food trailer is usually parked in the Valero Gas Station parking lot from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday and Wednesday to Saturday. It is closed on Tuesday. If you would like to place an order for a pickup or reserve the food trailer for an event, call (919) 627-7094.
“I love doing that in a trailer,” Sosa said. “It’s interesting because we can bring our food to where there are people. I was disappointed the first week we opened. I didn’t have as many people as I wanted, but it was me who was impatient. No one knew about us. After we went to Polar Panda Snoballs, people really took notice and asked where we would be next and how to find us. Now people know our trailer. Sometimes when we are driving to set up there are cars behind our trailer following us.”
–Jill Doss-Raines is the food and restaurant editor for the Times-News. She’s always looking for advice on the Alamance County food scene. Contact me at [email protected]