On a recent marketing tour of Texas, I was thrilled to witness the exciting and creative food truck revolution that was sweeping towns along our route. Super-hip restaurateurs are offering everything from trendy gourmet vegan fare to global and ethnic cuisines. These entrepreneurs are dishing up great tastes for locals and tourists.
Food trucks celebrate the diversity and pizzazz of a community, reflecting its different cultures and their unique culinary creations. After sampling food truck fare from Buena Vista to Marfa, Austin and Houston, my first thought was: Why don’t we have more food trucks in the Roaring Fork Valley?
Dream come true! Last week I was delighted to meet Alejandra Arroyo, the soft-spoken, hard-charging young woman who owns the new bright red, D’Karni Express food truck located at the Catherine Store, 15783 Highway 82 in Carbondale.
D’Karni offers ethnic Mexican home-cooking with a sophisticated flair.
“I combine Mexican and American food flavors to get just the right balance of flavors and tastes…. it has to be perfect in every way,” says Arroyo.
Before launching D’Karni Express, she worked hard for nearly two decades in Colorado restaurants and in catering, learning the business and how to deliver food creatively, but for local tastes.
“I never wanted a restaurant,” she says. “My dream has always been to have a fabulous, red food truck serving Mexican meals that taste home-cooked.
“God gave me the gift to cook savory food, and I had to rise to my calling,” she adds.
Opened in 2018, relaunched in May
Arroyo is passionate about cooking and the food truck culture. She surveyed food trucks around Colorado before approaching Rhonda Black, the exalted wine merchant and former Wall Street investment banker who owns the Catherine Store.
She asked about locating her business on the Catherine Store property, reasoning that, “People come here before work, during lunch and after work. It’s a busy, perfect place.”
D’Karni serves breakfast burritos with eggs and a variety of accompaniments, including potatoes, beef, beans, onions, ham, cheese, sausage, tomatoes and jalapeños. Savory tacos, quesadillas, burritos, tortas [Mexican sandwich] and huaraches [large open soft taco] are offered for lunch. If you prefer a vegetarian option, Alejandra will happily cater to your tastes.
Says Black: “I’m thrilled to support entrepreneurship in the valley, and to have Alejandra’s incredible food truck at the Catherine Store.”
The Catherine Store does not charge D’Karni for her location on the property. Black’s only demand, in exchange for use of the space, was that Alejandra have all of her food and sanitation inspections, insurance and permits in shipshape. In her matter-of-fact no-nonsense way Black says, “If you do everything right, it will be good for you and good for me.”
“Rhonda is my angel. She opened the door and gave me this opportunity. I will thank her forever,” says Arroyo.
Arroyo cooks all her food on-site, meaning that she must meet rigorous public health and food safety requirement and inspections.
“Many people think it’s simple to start a food truck, but you have to pass the food preparation and safety exam, which is tough. You need to be exact in the temperature control of every piece of food. I had to learn a lot, but when the inspector came, she told me that I have one of the best food trucks she’s ever seen,” she says proudly.
On Oct. 3, 2018, she launched the D’Karni Express in memory of her brother, whom she called Karni as a term of affection in their youth. A month later, Alejandra’s American dream faced a major setback. At 2 a.m. on Nov. 1, her food trailer was hitched to a blue pickup truck and stolen. The crime was caught on the Catherine Store security cameras and with Rhonda’s help she was able to file and claim insurance, and re-launch six months later in May 2019.
“I reopened D’Karni with even greater conviction and determination. I had to do this for my family … and not be robbed of my dream,” says Arroyo.
“I have no words to describe the support and solidarity of this community. I am doing three times the business I did before, and I am so thankful. It’s a dream I’m realizing thanks to this community,” she says.
Open 6 a.m.-5 p.m.,
Call ahead for special orders: 970-230-2672