MoLo's food truck serves standout Mexican food in Phoenix | Phoenix New Times

Meet the family behind MoLo's, Buckeye's standout Mexican food truck

Mariacrystal and Jonathan Moreno serve their favorite family recipes at Valley events and festivals.
The Moreno family shares their favorite flavors and recipes at their food truck MoLo's.
The Moreno family shares their favorite flavors and recipes at their food truck MoLo's. Mariacrystal Moreno
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The name MoLo's, Mariacrystal Moreno says, is a combination of her maiden name, Lopez, and her husband Jonathan's last name, Moreno. Their business and recipes seamlessly blend both chefs' cultural backgrounds and favorite flavors.

Mariacrystal is from California and her husband Jonathan is originally from Mexico by way of San Diego. Together, they are spreading the love for their unique mesquite-smoked Mexican food around the Valley.

How MoLo's got started

The Morenos haven't always worked in the food truck business.

"My husband used to install solar panels for 15 hours daily in an open field. He needed something steady in between solar contracts. He started with inflatables," Mariacrystal says. Their inflatable business called MoLo's Rentals involved party rentals, mostly for kids, featuring things like giant bounce houses, water slides, dry slides, and the like.

The Morenos would frequently get asked to recommend caterers in the community while they were setting up events. Multiple inquiries led Mariacrystal to sell tamales before the duo to took a shot at catering and after two years, they invested in a food truck.

"The idea," Mariacrystal explains, "is to infuse both of our families' signature flavors and dishes in our new and original way."

"We are so grateful for the inflatables business and getting our start that way. It was our stepping stone. We feel fortunate to be able to focus on our food truck and catering moving forward."

Even though the business is based in Buckeye, where the Morenos live, Mariacrystal says the food truck has gone as far as Sedona to work a wedding. "We are not afraid to travel," she laughs. But for those seeking out their food, there are a couple of regular spots to look.

As a semi-retired teacher who "still substitutes occasionally," Mariacrystal partnered with Youngker High School to do First Fridays at the first of the month in Buckeye. It's a steady place to see regulars, and the chefs have come to know peoples' orders, she says.

click to enlarge A colorful plate of street tacos from MoLo's.
Street tacos that are as good as they look from MoLo's.

What's on the menu?

One of the most defining and unique features of MoLo's is the custom mesquite grill that was designed by Jonathan and built by his cousin who owns a welding company. Before they had the truck, they used to "haul the grill around with a '98 Ford in a trailer" for catering and events.

Fresh off the grill, the carne asada is the most popular of the three available meats. The chicken has always been Mariacrystal's favorite and "made me fall in love with him," she says of her husband's cooking. The third option is al pastor. The beans are not from a can, Mariacrystal makes them and smashes them herself with her secret family recipe. Same with all the salsas and sauces that she makes from scratch.

The carne nachos and carne fries are popular options as well. And there are options for those who don't eat meat such as the bean and cheese burrito, cheese quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches served with or without fries.

"Even our tamales, we make them all to order, they are never frozen," Maria says with pride. Plus, tamales are extra special to the family since it was the first dish they started with when they ventured into the food business.

The drinks menu is just as flavor-packed as the food and MoLo's two most popular drinks are the Waterloupe, a cantaloupe watermelon agua fresca, and the horchata. Mariacrystal says she created the watermelon cantaloupe blend by accident, but her husband loved it and it ultimately became more popular than their horchata. It's vibrant pink in color and very sweet and refreshing. We recommend ordering combo meals with drinks for ultimate value. The drinks are big enough to share and come served in huge styrofoam cups.

Spending less than $40 on a meal for two at a food festival is increasingly rare in current times of major inflation. It has always been a priority for the Morenos to sell affordable food and keep prices fair for the community.

For $2, customers can even order a special doggy bowl of meat in a cup for their pets, meaning there is truly something for the whole family.
click to enlarge A plate of nachos with fresh salsa at MoLo's.
At MoLo's, all of the recipes including the salsas, meats and beans are made from scratch.

By family, for family

Everything about the business is family-owned and operated.

Jonathan's mother is an inspiration for the couple, Mariacrystal says, explaining that she had worked on a food truck and always dreamed of having a small restaurant.

"My mother-in-law just celebrated her 2-year restaurant anniversary in Williams, Arizona. She makes authentic Chihuahua Mexican cuisine at Nany's Tacos," Mariacrystal says. "She would invest in our plans and dreams of also having a restaurant. She is our biggest supporter."

The Moreno family hopes to one day own a brick-and-mortar restaurant too. It would most likely be in Buckeye to be near their family.

"My 11 and 9-year-old children help us set up the cashier stands and things. They tell people at school, 'We own MoLo's Tacos.' My 11-year-old can't wait to learn to cook and my 9-year-old loves nothing more than shouting out all the orders in the truck."

As the Moreno family makes memories with their children and looks forward to the future, they hope to serve a little nostalgia for their customers.

"It's that special memory tied to the plancha grill that reminds people of their first big family party, quinceanera, fiesta memories," she says. "It's a taste of home."

MoLo doesn't have a website but they are easy to find on Food Truck apps as well as Instagram and Facebook. Head to their social media for the latest on where to find them and what events they'll be rolling up to next.
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