PILSEN — Khaled Simon was devastated after his taco truck, lovingly dubbed “the Baby,” caught fire last week — but he’s turned his sights toward expanding his business, Taco Sublime, into a permanent store.
Early Dec. 12, Simon woke up to the sound of fire trucks outside his Pilsen apartment, he said. He went outside to see firemen hosing down his truck, which had been partly burned on the side.
“We took what we could from it, but everything was burnt,” he said. “I still smell the smoke from it.”
Simon said firemen told him the flames from the grill could’ve set fire to the insulation before he cleaned and turned off the truck for the night.
All the repairs will have to be paid out of pocket since the truck wasn’t covered by insurance, Simon said. Since the fire, he’s launched a GoFundMe to cover repairs for the Baby and finance a brick-and-mortar location. He’s hoping to raise $55,000.
Starting over is a chance elevate Simon’s goals, which include a community hub for all the outreach work he does, he said.
“We want to be able to give back tenfold to every person who has supported and has taken this vision and this mission to what it is today,” Simon said.
In addition to being a taco truck, Taco Sublime is a “vessel of change,” Simon said. He said he partners with community organizations, like Healthy Hood Chicago and Grocery Run Club, to provide free meals and necessities such as COVID-19 tests, masks and shoes.
“Everytime you purchase a meal [at Taco Sublime], that’s a meal for someone else,” he said.
Simon launched Taco Sublime in March 2020 after months of preparation, which included buying the 1975 ice cream truck that became the Baby, he said.
Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, Simon said he felt the “push of God” to help people as much as he could.
“I’m from Honduras, and it was very eye-opening to see that even in a country as developed and well-placed globally [as the United States], people were still in need,” he said. “I saw the opportunity to tackle it in such an unorthodox way. We needed to be able to connect and see what people needed, not come in and tell them what they need.”
For Simon, the best way to connect with people in vulnerable situations and get them to open up is through food and “breaking bread,” he said.
“A lot of these communities are not open because they feel like they’ve been disenfranchised, they feel like they’ve been marginalized,” Simon said.
What might start out as a conversation about soccer over tacos could turn into a recommendation for a therapist or a connection to help someone get an ID, Simon said.
Simon’s home base is Pilsen, but since the taco truck is mobile, he was able to bring food and other supplies to neighborhoods all over the West Side, he said.
When it comes time to open the brick-and-mortar store, Simon said it’ll either be in Pilsen or on the West Side. But even with the permanent store, Simon has no plans to retire his taco truck once repairs are made.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: