The Torta Cubano has been a staple on the menu at Tacos El Champu dating back to the restaurant's food truck days (Photo provided by Vanessa Montes)

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Four years ago, Vanessa Montes and her husband, Jose, moved to the Queen City with aspirations of starting a Mexican food truck. Business has done so well that the truck has been retired as the couple just opened a second brick-and-mortar restaurant.

The new store, located at 603 S. Kimbrough Ave., will allow Montes to hire more workers, a goal that she holds close to her heart, she said. She is hopeful the expansion will bring more college-aged customers through her door for specials like Taco Tuesdays and Beer and Tacos.

Vanessa and Jose Montes moved to Springfield in 2019 from Colorado. After saving enough cash to buy a small food truck, the two immediately started selling specials like chicken carnitas and dollar tacos. Two years later, they opened their first brick-and-mortar location at 1342 W. Sunshine St.

With business booming, the couple has closed the food truck to the public, only to bring it out for special events as they focus on operating two restaurants, Montes said.

“We’re doing pretty good at both” stores, Montes said. “We are so thankful for being able to open our second location.”

Tacos El Chumpo on Kimbrough
Tacos El Champu’s second Springfield store, located at 603 S. Kimbrough Ave., had a grand opening Sept. 6, owner Vanessa Montes said. (Photo by Ryan Collins)

Shampoo and tacos

The business name came from a quirky family nickname for Jose. At a young age, his father started calling him “El Champu,” or hair shampoo in English. The couple decided to put the unconventional name at the heart of their business when they first opened the food truck in 2019.

Vanessa Montes runs the business, while her husband runs the kitchen, she said. The last couple of weeks, Jose has been exclusively working at the new store on Kimbrough, preparing for the grand opening.

Part of the inspiration for opening a second location came from an abundance of people applying for a job at the Sunshine store. Montes kept a list of people who were having a hard time finding work and was eager to hire them when she opened the new store. The two locations have about 15 employees, Montes said.

On Tuesdays, customers can get chicken, carnitas or marinated pork tacos for just a dollar each. The meal even comes with a special beef broth. The Torta Cubano has been a staple on the menu dating back to the food truck days, Montes said.

“I mean it’s a big sandwich,” Montes said, adding that the Torta Cubano comes with four types of meat.

Ryan Collins

Ryan Collins is the business and economic development reporter for the Springfield Daily Citizen. Collins graduated from Glendale High School in 2011 before studying journalism and economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He previously worked for Bloomberg News. Contact him at (417) 849-2570 or More by Ryan Collins