All aboard!
Chilango Expressís authentic Mexican fare delivered from truck in Oconomowoc

By Josh Perttunen - Enterprise Staff

July 24, 2014

 Elena Ortiz is one of the friendly faces in the pick-up window at the Chilango Express food truck, parked at 212 E. Wisconsin Ave. in Oconomowoc. Mexican fare is offered rain or shine every day except Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The employees even brave winter weather, she said, but donít staff the truck when the temperature is below zero.
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

OCONOMOWOC - The southwestern corner of the parking lot at 212 E. Wisconsin Ave. in downtown Oconomowoc is almost always cooking, regardless of whether the sun is scorching the blacktop or the winter winds are howling among parked cars. That is because the Chilango Express food truck has taken up residence in that location for nearly two years, sizzling up fast, fresh and authentic Mexican food for customers on the go.

The mobile restaurant is an extension of owner Juan Ortizís  slowly expanding Mexican food enterprise, which now boasts three locations. Juan Ortiz himself mans his food stand at 27th Street and National Avenue in Milwaukee, the food truck is parked in Oconomowoc with daughter Elena Ortiz at the helm and the Ortiz familyís newest venture opened last week at 6821 W. Lincoln Ave. in West Allis.

On Tuesday, Elena Ortiz sat down to discuss her Oconomowoc experience with the Enterprise.

ENTERPRISE: Where did you learn to make Mexican food? And how did you end up with a food truck in Oconomowoc?

ORTIZ: I lived in Mexico City until I was 16 years old. I came to the United States 18 years ago. I learned to make this food by helping my mom at home. I didnít like cooking before, but I like cooking now. Maybe because itís better to be cooking on a flat grill. I used to work in Oconomowoc, and still have a lot of friends here.

 Authentic Mexican offerings at the food truck range from familiar fare such as
burritos to the less common huarache.

Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

ENTERPRISE: What makes your Mexican food different from the food offered at other Mexican restaurants in the area?

ORTIZ: We have some very, very different stuff than youíd see elsewhere. We have pumpkin flour, corn mushrooms, cactus, banana peppers, and stuff you wonít find at the majority of the other restaurants. There is also the huarache, which is a Mexican open-faced corn flatbread. Our food is put together in the truck. The meat is already cooked and the veggies are already chopped, but the tortillas are cooked in the truck.


ENTERPRISE: What have you learned during your experience in the truck?

ORTIZ: Itís time-consuming. Itís hard to manage a restaurant. Iím just trying to help my family. Most Mexican families are like that, they are just together.


ENTERPRISE: What do you remember about when the business was robbed at knifepoint almost a year ago?

ORTIZ: That day we closed, we were scared to come back. My dad had a stand in Milwaukee for three years and never was robbed. The following day, we came back and there were so many people who showed up to buy from us. They didnít want us to leave Oconomowoc.

 The Chilango Express Truck hits the road to cater weddings, private parties and festivals. Driving the large truck ensures that every trip is an adventure, says Elena Ortiz.
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

ENTERPRISE: You said you do take this truck on the road; have you had any adventures while in transit?

ORTIZ: Just moving this thing is an adventure, itís so big. It has a lot of equipment that jumps. My dad went to a wedding that happened inside of a factory and the truck was right there in the factory.


ENTERPRISE: Are customers curious to hear you speak Spanish?

ORTIZ: Some know the language and try to practice it with us. We try to speak English as much as possible.


ENTERPRISE: What are your hours of operation and what else should readers know?

ORTIZ: We are here every day except Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. We have got to know a lot of people. When you can make someoneís bad day into a good day just by being friendly and cooking them food, itís nice. The customers care about you. Itís not just a customer experience, but you become friends.

We are here in the winter too, just not on days where it is below zero.

We go to festivals and private parties, do carry-out orders over the phone and are very busy during the lunch hour.