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I love food trucks. Always have. Probably always will–with one fairly obvious caveat: the food better be stellar. That brings me to Lili’s Mexican Food Truck, the Little Rock-based eatery from the husband-and-wife duo of Patrick and Laura Ochoa. The truck opened in May 2021, and like with most new ventures, I tend to sit back for a few months to see how things settle in, to listen to the chatter, and to gauge general public sentiment.
Everything was checking out with Lili’s, so I went, and then went again, and again, and again.
To say the food impressed me is an understatement. The menu is small, comprised primarily of protein-filled tacos, quesadillas, birria ramen, and my favorite item of the bunch, a California burrito. I tend to enjoy a focused menu, but for Lili’s, it was one born out of necessity.
“There are many dishes we love and wish we could have as regular items. However, our trailer’s footprint is limited in workspace. It’s only 10 feet by 8 feet,” says Laura Ochoa. She continues, “We knew that we wanted to have birria and cochinita, as well as vegetarian options, so we started with just tacos and 3 proteins, plus rice and beans. Slowly we added four more protein options, the California burrito, birria ramen, and more recently, asada fries. Having a small menu allows us to focus on quality and provide efficient service.”
For Patrick, his background in food played an integral role in excelling with the trailer.
“I did a total of nine years in the Marine Corps, three of those were as a field/galley cook. It was long days of prepping, cleaning, and serving. Marines are big on attention to detail, so it was a tedious and thankless job, but I am grateful for all the skills I acquired.”
And while Laura has never worked in a restaurant kitchen, her passion for the food business courses through her veins.
“I’ve just always enjoyed cooking for others and grew up around food. Growing up in Mexico City, my grandma ran a food stand from outside her front porch on the weekends. I remember her homemade masa quesadillas being very popular as a little girl,” says Laura.
Regarding the food at Lili’s, while I’ve yet to eat something that I didn’t enjoy (including the mushroom tacos, quesabirra tacos, and asada quesadillas), there is something truly special about their California burrito. The popular entree comes loaded with a protein of your choice (go with the pork), along with pico, avocado, crema, and french fries. Yes, french fries, the hallmark of any great California burrito.
“We first tried the burrito while I was stationed in San Diego, and it was an instant core memory. We decided to introduce it to Arkansas with the same nostalgic flavor we know and love by paying attention to the details. You must have the right balance of ingredients in order for it to really be a California burrito,” says Patrick.
The burrito, itself, is not some massive concoction that resembles a small duffle bag, but rather an adequately portioned, meticulously executed handheld that’s been stuffed just right and grilled to seal in the awesomeness.
I could go on and on about the food, but there’s another aspect of Lili’s that stands out: community. It’s apparent when you walk up to the trailer, which proudly displays stickers from many local businesses. This strong show of support and sense of community is also prevalent in the Ochoa’s speech and actions.
“Little Rock is our home now. We want to support our community just as much as our community has supported us. Being from California, we can really appreciate the positive growth happening here, and we enjoy being a part of it in any way we can. Doing our part for this community, especially when we can see the positive effects firsthand, is very rewarding,” says Laura.
With great food and great folks, there is really nothing not to love about Lili’s Mexican Food Truck. Follow them on social media to know their setup times and locations, and make sure to get one of those burritos. You won’t regret it.
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