Rene Valenzuela has seen the long lines four times before Monday. He was prepared for a similar reaction when he opened his fifth Taco Bus location this week, expanding to Brandon at 301 S Falkenburg Road, just north of Adamo Drive.
"It was crazy," Valenzuela said. "It was like, 'Wow.' You never get used to it. I feel incredibly lucky and happy and humbled by Brandon's response."
East Hillsborough patrons lining up expecting to taste something similar to Valenzuela's Plant City restaurant, Taqueria Monterrey, received something unlike the ultra-authentic bistro food. The latest Taco Bus, with an outside patio on the site of a former concrete plant, holds true to what people have come to expect from the bus fare.
"(Taqueria Monterrey) is a totally different concept," Valenzuela said. "It's a tiny restaurant with more ethnic items. Everything is different. Even the service is different."
The Taco Bus experience, which had its original Seminole Heights location featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, the Travel Channel's Man v. Food Nation and the Cooking Channel's Eat Street, is one where diners can expect a full meal and a drink for about $10, Valenzuela said. He also points to the vegetarian options on the bus: tofu, vegan steak, beans made without lard and rice made without meat stock.
The Brandon location took more than a year to scout and six months to complete. It features a large parking lot to accommodate the area's commuters 24 hours a day Thursday through Sunday, a new alternative to late-night dining in the community. It is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.
The popular tacos start at $2.99 and Valenzuela is thankful for what he called a "tremendous response" to the opening.