BY ANGELINA MARTIN
As the city with the largest Portuguese population in the country, Hilmar has to be excited about the newest food truck to hit its streets.
Though Smokin Portagee Food Truck is on wheels and can change its location at the rev of its engine, owner and Hilmar native Carlos Fagundes considers the town his business’ “home base,” parking on Lander Avenue next to Hilmar Auto Parts for a majority of the week.
Along with fiancé Stacy Ochoa, Fagundes has taken the cooking expertise he learned from his mom and grandmother over the years — both natives of the Azores — and transformed it into a dining experience which has gained the small food truck quite the large following since opening in February.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” Fagundes said. “Once I got the trailer and we got going, I never expected this would happen to me with the way it’s taken off. It’s at the point now where I think I might have to open another one.”
With classic dishes like linguica, pork loin sandwiches, Portuguese beans and even experimental, fun food like deep-fried linguica bites, Fagundes tries to pay homage to his family while creating food that his customers will like.
“I like to think I’m following in their footsteps. Of course our food is Portuguese, but it’s probably not nailed to a ‘T’ like my grandma and mom used to cook,” he said. “I’m just thrilled that people like Portuguese food, and I like to think my food is pretty close to old school Portuguese cooking.”
On some days, the Smokin Portagee Food Truck can be found in Turlock, Modesto or other towns. The truck’s schedule is constantly changing, so Fagundes recommends that customers check the business’ Facebook page to see their location for the day before heading out for a meal.
As a former cook who used to prepare Portuguese food for family functions like birthday parties and anniversary celebrations, the Smokin Portagee Food Truck is a dream come true for Fagundes. He owes it all to Ochoa, he said, who pushed him to follow his passion. He even tries to give back through his new endeavor, handing out leftover food at the end of each day to the homeless community.
“I never expected this would happen to me,” he said. “To have my own food truck is amazing.”
IF YOU GO . . .
Location and Hours:
For updates, visit Smokin Portagee Food Truck on Facebook
Pork loin sandwiches topped with egg