A fleet of food trucks has taken over a once-empty parking lot in Northeast Albuquerque.
Now, the lot behind Grace Church at 6901 San Antonio NE looks like a park, with grass, solar power, shade structures and picnic tables and a brand-new name: the Pacific Rim food truck park.
Judy Chiang, former owner of Rising Star Chinese Eatery, came up with the idea for a food truck park during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many diners preferred to eat outside.
Rising Star, which is now operated by Chiang’s brother-in-law and nephews, had a driveway that they were able to use for to-go orders. Her restaurant was able to weather the pandemic; but Chiang noticed that others in the community were struggling. Many of her friends who lost their jobs were immigrants and didn’t speak English, so applying for unemployment benefits was difficult.
Chiang moved to Santa Fe from Taiwan in 1999. She and her husband opened up a restaurant in Texas a few years later.
“I remember that we were struggling in the beginning of immigration,” Chiang said. “And then later we found a chance: we can open a restaurant.”
Currently, there are five food trucks at the location, serving everything from empanadas to yakisoba. Chiang is hoping to get approval from the city to add an additional five trucks.
Many of the food truck owners in the park are first-time restaurant owners, Chiang said. Chiang said she knows how hard it is to start a food business. But the “half-retired” Chiang, with decades of restaurant experience, is there to help. And members of Grace Church have helped put the park together.
“I see a lot of kindness and positive feeling on this field,” Chiang said.
Before a grand opening on Oct. 30, the food truck court will be open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. After the grand opening, Chiang is hoping to extend the days and hours of operation.
The event will include performances like Chinese lion dancers. Later in the year, there will be a farmers market with food and artisan vendors.
“We see a lot of positive energy here,” Chiang said. “Everybody’s just trying our best to make this dream come true.”