Before food trucks were cool, Eloy Saenz was running one. Before authentic flavor was in, he stayed true to the tastes of his culture.
Thirty years ago, Saenz opened Mexico Lindo to bring authentic Mexican tacos to Harrisburg. Today, his food truck continues to offer Harrisburg some of the tastiest Mexican cuisine around.
A few years ago, Saenz retired and passed the business along to his daughters, Elodia and Anna, and their children. Like many family businesses, the story behind Mexico Lindo is one of hard work, strong values and a lot of heart.
“My father moved to the United States in the 1960s,” said Elodia. “He was one of the people who came to work on the plantations in Arizona on temporary visas. He decided to stay about 30 years ago.”
Saenz eventually moved to Harrisburg and started Mexico Lindo as a little restaurant on Derry Street. The restaurant was put on hold when his brother’s illness prompted a temporary return to Mexico.
“When he came back, he wanted to restart, but as a truck,” Elodia said. “He opened up a little taco truck about 15 years ago. He started working weekends, then, as demand increased, moved to weekdays. I think we’re Harrisburg’s first taco truck.”
The secret to their mouth-watering dishes, according to Elodia, is a simple menu made from the freshest ingredients. Tacos are served in authentic Mexican style: soft tortillas piled high with shredded meat, onion, lime, cilantro and salsa.
“My father never wanted to change the recipe for a more ‘American’ way,” said Elodia. “He kept it how it is in Mexico.”
Carnitas—slow-cooked, braised pork—is the house (um, truck) specialty.
“The carnitas take about seven hours to prepare,” said Elodia. “We purchase the meat from Groff’s in Elizabethtown—always fresh. We begin by braising the meat the day before then cook it slowly. We do things the same way our father did.”
Mexico Lindo is open seasonally, generally beginning in March, weather depending, and staying open until the first week in December. You can even “dine in” at a few small tables located on the porch of the building in front of the truck.
You’re well advised to show up early. To ensure freshness and flavor, Mexico Lindo makes just enough for that day.
“When we run out of ingredients, we’re done for the day,” said Elodia.
Both Elodia and Anna have help from their children, who also work to keep the family business going. Enrique, Elodia’s son, even wears his grandfather’s hat while he’s on the truck.
“They thought my father was so cool,” Elodia said.
Elodia’s son and younger daughter may one day graduate from the food truck. They both currently attend Penn State Harrisburg.
“My kids love to eat good food,” said Elodia. “My son is studying hospitality management at Penn State because he knows how all of this works.”
With no website, Mexico Lindo gets its business the old-fashioned way—through word of mouth.
“Some people come here for the first time, and they like it, and then they recommend it to other people,” said Elodia. “Before they know it, they are coming here for years.”
Elodia herself has lived in Harrisburg for 23 years.
“I like that it is a small city,” she said. “There’s also a lot of diversity. I’m happy to watch my kids grow up in this country. I love the food—I love trying different kinds of food, and there’s a lot of that here.”
The family plans to keep the truck in its current location on Allison Hill, near Market and 15th streets, to keep it accessible to the loyal customers who have been patrons for decades. After all, it’s what her father would have wanted.
“We’re just a little business, but it’s a lot of work,” said Elodia. “You see just the truck, but there’s a lot behind it.”
With tacos this flavorful, let’s hope they never change a thing.
The Mexico Lindo taco truck is located on Market Street, near the intersection of 15th Street, in Harrisburg.
Author: Rachael Dymski