The Roundup -

Bakken: Cooking Up Opportunity For Families Near And Far


Juan Carlos Torres

Since the recent boom in the Bakken, eastern Montana towns have seen increases in far more than oil production. People from all walks of life have begun the trek west to find prosperity and opportunity afforded by the economic development now occurring in the oil and agriculture rich areas of Richland County.

Juan Carlos Torres is one of those people. Juan Carlos is a father of six. He moved to the United States from Mexico City in 1985, after a terrifying earthquake, he said. He'd been driving a cab at the time the earthquake hit, and recalls the streets being uplifted like waves and people falling from buildings. That was enough for him. He moved to California where he met his wife.

Prior to moving to Sidney, Juan Carlos and his family had been living in Las Vegas. He and two of his three sons ventured up to Sidney three years ago to see if what they'd been hearing from friends was truly accurate.

The three lived in an office owned by one of the local men they were working for at the time pressure washing large oilfield trucks. After a few months, the family was able to find a home to move into. At that time, Torres beckoned the rest of his family to Montana; all but one daughter made the move from Las Vegas to Sidney. Juan Carlos and his wife, along with four of the six children, live in the same house. Antonio, the oldest son, along with his wife and three children, lives just a stone's throw from the rest of the family.

Once the family got situated, Torres was able to open a food truck on Central, where he and two of his children have been serving up authentic Mexican food ever since.

"This was my dad's dream," said youngest son Teo, 17.

Teo and his sister Vanessa, 22, both work alongside their dad.

Torres' other boys, Uriel and Antonio, work in the oilfield, along with Vanessa's boyfriend who relocated to Sidney from Louisiana.

Though Teo and Vanessa are the only two that officially work in the taco bus, Tacos Zapotlan, there is never a shortage of family stopping by, whether to help or simply to eat. The taco bus is small, but the drive up access, quick & friendly service, affordable prices, and outdoor seating make it a one of kind hot spot on Sidney's main drag.

"People always tell us there's nothing else like this anywhere around, not even in Williston," said Torres' middle son, Uriel, who works as a shop hand for an energy services company.

That would explain the nearly non-stop flow of traffic at Tacos Zapotlan, which is open Monday through Friday, 7am-7pm, and from 8am to 5pm on Saturdays.

"Sundays are for family," explained Juan Carlos. "You've got to take a break, and that's the day we go out as a family, maybe dinner in Williston, then right back home to get things ready for Monday."

Torres said that he sees an average of one hundred customers each day, earning between $1,500 and $2,000, the most of any of the food trucks he'd tried to make successful in the past. When asked what the most popular item on the menu was, Torres and Teo both responded without hesitation, "Steak burritos."

Other items on the menu include classics like carnitas (pork) tacos, as well as more exotic offerings like lengua (tongue). Mexican Jarritos sodas are also available to top off a perfectly Mexican meal. All meat is provided by a local butcher, who Teo says, "Hooks it up!"

From the sounds of it, the Torres family will be in Sidney for years to come.

"This is great place to raise a family," said Teo.

"Las Vegas has gotten horrible," added Teo's father, Juan Carlos. He said that gang violence had made the city a less desirable place to live and raise a family.

After only a few years of diversifying Sidney's food offerings at Tacos Zapotlan, Juan Carlos says he's ready to go back to work for the oilfield, but this time, as a hot shot. Teo plans to pursue welding, but is an experienced MMA fighter as well, and hopes to find opportunities where he might hone his athleticism in the sport.

Taco Zapotlan is currently up for sale. Juan Carlos says he plans to train whoever the next owner is, so that their regulars will be able to come back for the same great, authentic fare! Though the Torres patriarch plans to move on in his career, he says he certainly has no plans of leaving Sidney.

*Interested in owning your own Sidney Taco Bus? Contact Vanessa Torres at (406) 478-9196, or by email at [email protected]


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