Soboba hosts Food Truck Fiesta

More than 3,000 visitors attended the inaugural two-day Soboba Truck Fiesta at the Soboba Casino Resort outdoor event area. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

Several months ago, the Soboba Casino Resort marketing department, led by Chief Marketing Officer Martin Moore, started to formulate a plan for a new and exciting event they could host at the resort in the spring. The result was a Food Truck Fiesta held May 15 and 16.

“We were anticipating the relaxing of COVID-19 protocols and knew people would be anxious to get outdoors and actually do something,” Moore said. “With indoor space still being limited by the pandemic’s distancing protocols, we knew we would need a large open space and the parking lot was the perfect setting.”

Approximately 150,000 square feet of the Northeast parking lot was fenced off to allow for about a dozen food trucks and pop-ups to park along the perimeter of the area with room for a large tented beer garden in the center. Music by DJ Mike Nevarez kept the guests entertained throughout the six-hour event each day.

More than 3,000 happy and hungry visitors attended the two-day event that featured a wide variety of eating options. Many of the trucks are regulars in the Los Angeles area and Chef Jason McClain from Philly Jay’s Steaks rounded up several he knew to join him after he was contacted by SCR’s event coordinator Estephanie Vizcaya.

“Soboba staff was great and efficient,” McClain said. “We had a good turnout and the food truckers had fun.”

McClain takes his truck to many special events, apartment buildings, tailgate parties, private events, and customers include lots of corporate clients for employee feeding. After 30 years as a well-known fine dining chef, McClain got into the food truck business about a year and a half ago. Originally from Philadelphia and New Jersey, Philly cheesesteak is his favorite sandwich, so he bought the truck to test the Los Angeles market. He was joined by three others helping him work his truck at the Soboba event.

“We fly the bread in from Philadelphia and we have a very special meat blend of rib eye and sirloin to ensure the quality,” McClain said.

Other trucks were Belle Pasta, Big Grandma’s Kitchen (Salvadorian Soul Food), Cali Caribbean, Cerda Vega Tacos, Messi Burgers, Ohana Hibachi, Scooter’s Sweet Shack, The Big Easy Sandwich and Wise Barbecue Company. Pop-ups were set up by Soboba tribal members to serve frybread and Indian tacos. Antonia Briones-Venegas oversaw Frybread Kitchen on the north side of the cordoned off quadrant and Linda Resvaloso was at the other side of the arena with the Soboba Halo Kut’Poki pop-up, along with members of the Kut-Poki Church.

“We were cooking all day Saturday and sold out,” Briones-Venegas said. “It has been so nice to say hello to so many different faces.”

Briones-Venegas currently serves as secretary for the Soboba Foundation, who benefited from the event by receiving 10% of total ticket sales to help fund many of the causes it sponsors throughout the year.

Resvaloso said they have been serving their food at community events since 2003, mostly at the church that is located on the Soboba Reservation. She said they cut their menu down because they wanted to focus on Indian tacos for this event.

Brothers Bill and Justin Sloggatt from Wise Barbecue Company have been working their food truck six days a week for the past seven years.

“Our smoked beef brisket sandwich is our top seller and our ribs are pretty good, too – I eat them every day,” Bill Sloggatt said. “A few of us all park in the same spot in Boyle Heights so we know each other.”

He said that because they all offer different types of food, they are not in direct competition with each other, which allows them to forge industry friendships. The Sloggatts have had their truck at events in Palm Springs and Coachella but this was their first visit to the San Jacinto Valley.

“We’ve had a great time,” Bill Sloggatt said. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing people out having a great time – eating, drinking and being social. Soboba did a great job here – they nailed it!”

Aracely Jarrell and her family stayed busy at The Big Easy Sandwich truck, offering food that was a fusion of Cajun and Mexican flavors.

“We are the only local food truck here,” the Beaumont-based Jarrell said. “We started as a pop-up niche at local breweries and bought our truck in 2017.”

She enjoyed the event, saying it was nice to see life getting back to some sort of normalcy. She said the favorite item among customers is their Big Easy fries dish that includes Cajun-style fries topped with chipotle flavored pulled pork and their signature creole slaw.

“All the flavors balance each other – it’s the perfect marriage of both cultures’ flavors,” Jarrell said.

Soboba Casino Assistant General Manager Jason Cozart said everything went very well.

“We’ve been blessed with good weather both days,” he said. “People are having a great time.”

Moore said the one thing that really surprised the organizers was how thankful the attendees were.

“Everyone was just very happy to be able to do something and socialize with their friends and families,” he said. “We were extremely pleased with every aspect of the event. The entire event exceeded our expectations, from the huge turnout, the quality of the food, the atmosphere, the weather; it was all fantastic.”

When the gates closed at 6 p.m. each day, a Lang Smoker grill was given away to a lucky winner. The two grills, valued at $5,000 each, are the brand featured on the Netflix series “The American Barbeque Showdown.”

“The winner had to be present and both winners were ecstatic with their new barbecue smokers,” Moore said.

Soboba Casino Resort CEO John James was pleased with the overall event and its turnout.

“Our team did such an excellent job of putting this together under ever-changing protocols,” he said. “We are delighted we were able to put this together to benefit our guests, our team members, Soboba Casino Resort and the Soboba tribal community.”

Being that this was the Soboba Casino Resort’s first foray into the food truck festival field, Moore said they were pleased to have learned a lot.

“We are always looking for things to improve on and perfect so there are some minor tweaks that we will make for our next event,” Moore said. “We know now that we will definitely need more food trucks.”

Submitted by Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.