They ran Alebrijes Oaxacan Kitchen on the side of full-time restaurant jobs in Half Moon Bay. Lopez, who is Hernandez's mother in law, also worked as a housekeeper at local hotels. But then the coronavirus hit, forcing them into focusing on the truck full time.
Alebrijes Oaxacan Kitchen is now parked at 2666 Middlefield Road in Redwood City Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and pops up at 724 Main St. in Half Moon Bay on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Carmen Lopez and Reynaldo Hernandez in front of their food truck. Photo courtesy Alebrijes Oaxacan Kitchen.
Lopez is from Santiago Apóstol in Oaxaca, while he hails from Santa Ana. The family now lives in Half Moon Bay, where there's a strong Oaxacan community. (Since 2010, Half Moon Bay has held an annual festival to celebrate the patron saint of Santiago Apóstol.)
Lopez and Hernandez want to expose more local diners to the dishes and flavors of Oaxacan cooking. Their two signature dishes are memelitas and tlayudas. Memelitas look like tacos but are served on larger, handmade corn tortillas. They're filled with a layer of pureed black beans, cabbage, quesillo (Oaxacan cheese made from cow's milk), salsa, guacamole and drizzled with asiento, or pork lard.
Memelitas, pictured above. Photo courtesy Alebrijes Oaxacan Kitchen.
Lopez and Hernandez cook the black beans with hoja de aguacate, or avocado leaves. Other dishes incorporate Oaxacan herbs such as hierba santa and epazote.
Tlayudas, sometimes referred to as Oaxacan pizza, look like flatbread covered with various toppings. Lopez and Hernandez toast a thin, 15-inch corn tortilla, lay it flat and smear it with asiento and pureed black beans, topped with cabbage, quesillo, tomatoes, salsa and your choice of carne asada, chorizo or marinated pork (or all three).
Memelitas and tlayudas are always on the menu but they rotate in additional dishes such as blandas (a Oaxacan burrito) and molotes (deep-fried masa stuffed with chorizo and potatoes). Check the truck's Facebook page for daily specials.
Drinks also rotate and can include Oaxacan-style horchata made from cantalope and walnuts; aqua de chilacayota, made from chilacayote, a squash; and Oaxacan lemonade made from the skin of limes.
"We really want to bring awareness to what is Oaxacan food, and this is as authentic it gets," said Ruth Sanchez, Lopez's niece and Hernandez's cousin. "This has been Reynaldo and Carmen's dream for the longest time."
For now, the truck is takeout only but the owners are planning to procure some tables to provide outdoor seating soon.