You better slow down when you come up on the intersection of Colorado 348 and Montrose County 5500 Road.
Two reasons. One, there may be the closest thing to a traffic jam that you will find on the California Mesa. Two, there is some great food to be had.
Out there on the edge of one of sweet corn king John Harold’s properties, sitting under some large shade trees, is the Carreta del Sabor. If your high school Spanish is a distant memory, the name in English is Wagon of Flavor. That name is no overstatement.
The stainless-steel food wagon belongs to Selso and Martha Roque. Their mission is to provide delicious Sinaloa-style Mexican food at affordable prices to the farm workers and farmers who work the fields from Delta to the North Shavano Valley.
“We started out a little slow about six years ago,” said Selso, a guy with an easy laugh. Of course, when you park your restaurant on the edge of a farm field 5 miles from the nearest town, you might expect things to not go off with a bang. But by the end of the first season, the intersection fostered a little gridlock now and then. The appeal is the food that Martha produces from her super clean and well-organized mobile kitchen.
“All the recipes are Martha’s,” said Selso. “She learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, and she loves what she is doing.”
Martha’s menu is simple. She serves tortas, a toasted sandwich not unlike the popular Cubanos. There is a steak version and chicken offering. Tacos, burritos and quesadillas round out the menu. The cuisine she grew up with in Sinaloa included pork, but she has converted all her recipes for the carreta to use beef and chicken. All local farm products, of course.
The Roques were married 27 years ago and began coming to Colorado to work in 1995. Eventually they came here permanently and Martha was a stay-at-home mom, raising three youngsters. Their oldest is at school in Michigan and the other two, Misael and Daniel, live at home. Daniel will be found helping in the coach when his semester ends at Olathe High School.
Selso said the wagon was Martha’s idea. Asked if she would some day like to have a restaurant, she answers with a smile and a nod: “Yes.”
As we talked, one young man jumped out of his SUV to claim four big to-go bags of the caretta’s food. Then an elderly Kawasaki rolled into the gravel drive and a fellow, with a gray beard forcing itself from under his helmet, dismounted. Mark Curlifer had been riding by the corner for two years and had not stopped until now.
“I promised myself that when they came back this year, I was going to stop,” he said before asking for advice about what to order.
“It’s all good, but if you get tacos, go for the hot sauce,” said a nearby patron.
“Sounds good,” he stepped up to deliver his order to Karina, the smiling young lady helping Martha this week.
The scene out there under those trees is a happy one. It is casual. Everyone sits together at big picnic tables. A big blue cooler is full of sodas. And there is plenty of laughter. A “How’s the food?” query gets all thumbs up and plenty of smiles. Old friends and newcomers enjoy company, while enjoying la comida de la vida — the food of life, the way Martha Roque does it.
The Carreta del Sabor begins its season in April and the Roques stay on until harvest is over in October. Martha opens the coach at 9:30 in the morning and closes at three in the afternoon. They take the weekends off.