I Love Tacos Taqueria is a popular food truck selling steak burritos, tamales, carnitas and even tongue tacos. (Photo: submitted)

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Springfield’s food truck scene has exploded over the years. You’ll find them planted in parking lots, neighborhoods, breweries, food truck parks, festivals and more.

Springfield even has a food truck festival — MO Food Truck Fest — slated for Sept. 17. These meals on wheels dot the Queen City, serving everything from burgers and barbecue to international fare. It’s that last one we’re focusing on today, as diners are often on the hunt for ethnic cuisine in Springfield.

If you have a hankering to try something new, here are five food trucks serving up dishes from their homeland.

Taste Colombia at La Chiva Colombiana

The arepas are made with white corn, which the Bonillas grind themselves. Arepas are corn patties or cakes stuffed with cheese, chicken or shredded beef. This is the best seller at the truck. (Photo: submitted)

How to get there: Route 66 Food Truck Park, Google Maps directions here

Want a taste of Colombia? Then head to La Chiva Colombiana.

Here, you will get a taste of authentic Colombian cuisine made by three siblings who use their grandmother’s recipes.

They are located at Route 66 Food Truck Park in a vibrant refurbished school bus painted yellow, blue and red — the colors of the Colombian flag. It is named for chivas, which are trucks in Colombia that are used to transport people and produce in rural areas.

Siblings Esteban, Nichol and Santiago Bonilla opened nine months ago and say business was slow at first, but is picking up. 

There are arepas, tamales and empanadas — choose from chicken, shredded beef or cheese.

The Bonillas make food from different regions in Colombia. The food is made fresh daily, and they aren’t kidding. They grind their own corn for the arepas, which are made with white corn. The arepas are the best seller. The corn cakes are filled with cheese, shredded chicken or beef.  

The patacón burger is one of the most inquired about dishes, and it’s made with fried plantain that acts as a bun would in America. It’s filled with shredded chicken or shredded beef, tomatoes and lettuce. 

This is a patacón burger made with fried plantain that acts as a bun would in America, and it’s filled with shredded chicken or shredded beef, tomatoes and lettuce. (Photo: submitted)

On Saturdays only, grab a bowl of piping hot chicken soup — Colombia-style. Homemade broth, shredded chicken, pieces of corn on the cob and yellow potatoes make this a comforting soup. It is served with a side of rice and avocado.

They are parked at the Route 66 Food Truck Park on East St. Louis Street, 1530 E. St. Louis St. (Google Maps directions here).

Check Facebook for updates. 

Elorine’s Jamaican Kitchen

Elorine Gainer shows off one of her homemade dishes on her truck. She loves to cook and was encouraged by her children to open the business. (Photo: submitted)

How to get there: Traveling food truck. Check her Facebook for updates.

Growing up in Jamaica, cooking was part of Elorine Gainer’s life. She was raised by a single mom who had to work hard to support her family, so Elorine prepared meals for her siblings. 

Gainer was a natural. Soon, she was cooking for people in her mom’s church and garnered praise from everyone who tasted her curries and stews.

She grew up, moved to the Ozarks in 2001 and had four children of her own. 

“They are the ones who inspired me to open this because they always invited friends over, and everyone would love the food,” Gainer said.

Since May 2022, she’s been sharing Jamaican cuisine with the Ozarks. Gainer has the classics that many Americans are familiar with, like jerk chicken and curry chicken. 

The jerk chicken is a popular item, but now she also offers jerk wings served with homemade barbecue sauce. (Photo: submitted)

She recently added jerk wings, made with her own rub and homemade barbecue sauce.

“Those are a hit,” she said.   

Rice and peas —Jamaica’s version of rice and beans — are vegetarian and cooked in coconut milk, which gives the rice a rich flavor.   

If you’re a little more adventurous, try the oxtail stew or goat curry.

For something mild, order the brown stew with chicken, a slow-cooked stew that doesn’t pack a spicy punch the way jerk chicken does. She also makes jerk pork and pepper steak.

Until recently, she was parked at food truck park Metro Eats, but now moves around. Gainer travels to breweries, businesses and events and can be booked online. She will be at these upcoming festivals: 8th Annual MO Food Truck Fest, Route 66 Hogs & Frogs Festival! 

Check her Facebook page for updates.

Peruvian and South American Food

Chef Nelly Baxter is known for her fabulous empanadas. She has a large selection from cheese to beef and potato and even bison or elk. (Photo: submitted)

How to get there: Farmers Market of the Ozarks, Metro Eats and Ozarks Farmers Park. (Full details and directions below)

Chef Nelly Baxter came to Springfield in 2002 to study English for a year. But she fell in love, got married and stayed.

A decade ago, she became a vendor at Farmers Market of the Ozarks, selling Peruvian empanadas and tamales. 

Customers embraced her food, and she gained a following.

Last year, she opened a food truck, Peruvian and South American Food, so her customers can enjoy her homemade food on a more regular basis. 

Baxter is known for her empanadas and tamales.  The tamales are prepared in a traditional method with mild Peruvian chiles in the masa along with garlic, oregano and onion. They are filled and wrapped in corn husks, ready to steam. The corn she uses is “choclo,” a large kernel variety from the Andes.

“The most popular empanada are those stuffed with beef, potatoes and cheese, but I also sell quite a few of the chorizo, elk, bison and chicken,” she said. “My most recent empanada is the Inka empanada with chicken, pork, steak and vegetables inside.”

Diners are curious about yuca, which is a white, long, starchy root vegetable. Baxter stuffs her with cheese and fries it.  

A light dish is her tilapia ceviche which is marinated in lime, with red onion, cilantro, corn and ají amarillo (a Peruvian yellow chili pepper that is very popular in this cuisine).

The ceviche is usually made with tilapia and is marinated in lime with onion, cilantro and Peruvian chili peppers. It is very popular and a light option. (Photo: submitted)

Baxter serves other authentic Peruvian dishes such as arroz con pollo verde (chicken and rice), arroz tapada con res y plantain (rice covered in beef and plantains).

This fall, she’ll add tasty Peruvian soups to the menu. 

Find Peruvian and South American Food at:

From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at Farmers Market of the Ozarks 

From 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays at Metro Eats, 2463 W. Sunshine St. 

From 3-7 p.m. Thursdays through Sept. 29 at the Ozark Farmers Market (last market is Sept. 29)

Baxter has a special fall Peruvian dinner from 3-7 p.m., Sept. 28 at Metro Eats.

On Facebook: Peruvian and South American Food.

Lae’s Authentic Egg Rolls

These fried spring rolls are filled with chicken, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, green onion and rice noodles. They are the best-selling item at Lae’s Authentic Egg Rolls. (Photo: submitted)

How to get there: They are a traveling truck and post their whereabouts on Facebook. (Full details below)

When Lae Cha and her husband Boon moved to Springfield from California, they quickly discovered that there was a lack of authentic Southeast Asian food. 

In the spring of 2018, they started selling food at farmer’s markets around the Springfield area. 

They are Hmong, an Asian ethnic minority who has long been persecuted.

“We were very surprised to find that our cuisines were very well received, and we enjoyed sharing our culture and the history of Hmong people with many of our customers. In 2019, we decided that a food trailer would better fit our growing needs,” Lae said.

After the Vietnam war, her parents fled from Laos to Thailand, where she was born in a refugee camp. They immigrated to the U.S. in 1979.

“The Hmong are a people without a country of our own, so many of our dishes are derived from the people groups that our parents or grandparents lived amongst. You’ll recognize spring rolls, egg rolls, pho as being more Vietnamese cuisine. Many of our dishes are derived from Thai and Laos cuisines as well,” she said.

Fresh spring rolls are filled with shrimp, herbs, noodles and vegetables and are a healthier option. (Photo: submitted)

At the truck, you’ll score fresh spring rolls popular in Thailand, fried rice, and Chinese barbecue pork skewers. But the best-selling item is her deep-fried chicken egg rolls served with homemade sweet-and-sour sauce.    

Find Lae’s Authentic Egg Rolls at:

They are a traveling truck and post their whereabouts on Facebook. But you can find them at some of the biggest festivals this fall and into winter, Japanese Fall Festival, Cider Days, Food Truck Friday in Carthage, DragonFest and Gardens Aglow.  

I Love Tacos Taqueria

I Love Tacos Taqueria is a popular food truck selling steak burritos, tamales, carnitas and even tongue tacos. (Photo: submitted)

How to get there: They now have three trailers, one truck and a brick and mortar at 2724 E. Chestnut Expressway. (Google Map directions here)

I Love Tacos Taqueria

There are a plethora of Mexican restaurants and trucks in Springfield, but I Love Tacos Taqueria is a favorite. So much so that they now have three trailers, one truck and a brick and mortar at 2724 E. Chestnut Expressway.

Husband and wife team Aldo and Yeni Vasquez opened the business in 2016.

Previously, Aldo was a truck driver and noticed that truck stops in California were packed with food trucks, which was a relief for drivers who tired of fast food.

Anyone who loves tacos should head to I Love Tacos Taqueria, which has two trucks in Springfield, and a brick and mortar. (Photo: submitted)

He decided he wanted to switch careers and open a food truck near the Flying J Travel Center in Springfield, which is still their main location (don’t follow the address on Facebook, it can take you crazy places, Yeni warns). 

Aldo did not have a background in the restaurant business but learned quickly and won over customers.

They have non-conventional dishes for Springfield but traditional fares like tripe and tongue tacos, along with local fan favorites like asada (steak), al pastor (marinated pork), carnitas and their best-selling steak burrito. They also sell tortas and tamales.  Customers rave about the homemade salsa.

Their second truck is parked at 2930 E. Kearney for lunch only, but you’ll also find their trailers at festivals, businesses and neighborhoods (the Kearney truck moves around).

To stay posted, check their Facebook page.

Juliana Goodwin

Juliana Goodwin is a freelance journalist with experience covering business, travel and tourism, health, food and history. She is a former Food and Travel Columnist for the Springfield News-Leader, a former business reporter for The Joplin Globe, and has written for USA Today and Arkansas Living Magazine, among others. More by Juliana Goodwin