Food trucks have been around since the late 1890s, and since then, the culture has evolved into the modern concept that is beloved by many today. From tacos and burgers, to sushi and other cuisines, food truck culture has taken many communities like El Paso by storm.
Today, local Indian food truck, Rosie’s Dhaba, has become a favorite spot among many in the community.
Established in 2022 by Marine Corps Veteran, Chef Omar Hernandez, Rosie’s Dhaba offers a variety of classic Indian dishes with a homemade feeling. From their popular butter chicken with jasmine rice and fresh cilantro garnishes to chickpea fries and naandillas — a savory naan filled with queso as a quesadilla style.
According to Hernandez, after being stationed away from home for five years, it was the home-cooked meals that he missed the most, and that experience led him to pursue a career in culinary arts and open his own business.
“I would cook little stuff, like frijoles and rice, and then progress to making enchiladas, and after I came back home from services, I attended the El Paso Community College Culinary Arts program and to continue my education,” Hernandez shared.
Hernandez spent a few years in kitchens around the city, some for corporate restaurants and others locally-owned, and says the experience was invaluable. However, it was during a family trip that Hernandez discovered the next step in his culinary career.
“We went to visit my brother in Austin, where we had Indian food. My wife and I were blown away by the flavors, and the different flavor profiles,” Hernandez said. “Indian cuisine is similar to Mexican cooking because we share a lot of the same ingredients, and it is going to be spicy, so it’s a very good crossover.”
According to Hernandez, the flavor parallels between Indian and Mexican cuisine are just one of the few things these two share in common. According to the chef, it was the cultural and family values that also drew his attention to focus on Indian cooking.
Along with his wife, Aileen Hernandez, daughter, Zoe Hernandez, nieces, Isabella and Savannah Hunnicutt, and other family members, Rosie’s Dhaba cares not only about using fresh products for each one of their services, but also about the familial unity that the business brings together.
“They’re as much of an owner as I am. They care about the business as much as I do, and we have also helped each other grow,” Hernandez said. “My wife had never worked in the restaurant industry, but she’s gained at least two years of experience running the food truck on both the food and the business side, so I couldn’t ask for a better teammate and better partner to do this with.”
Aileen Hernandez shared that beyond the health value of fresh cooking (due to the ingredients used in Indian cooking), there lies a family effort and tradition that takes them back to their grandmothers.
“Omar has mentored my mother and aunt to work in the kitchen with us, and it is amazing to see two grandmothers who grew up in Mexico cooking Mexican food, in the region of Durango, who are now embracing Indian cooking,” Hernandez shared. “They are familiar with many of the ingredients, as they grew up helping in their own mother’s kitchen, yet they find it so refreshing that Indian food calls for many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients such as garlic, turmeric, ginger, and cumin, in nearly every dish.”
While going to a fast-food restaurant or a la carte places will never go out of style, neither will food trucks, since according to Go Food Service, people are drawn to food trucks for the convenience of healthier dining alternatives, like those of a homemade meal, that are available on-the-go.
In 2023, IBIS World reported there are over 47,000 food trucks across the United States, with over 700 mobile businesses in the state of Texas alone.
Wellness Coordinator and client of Rosie’s Dhaba, Valeria Valdez, shared that her interest in Indian food was always there, but it wasn’t until she saw the vibrant yellow truck parked on Montwood and Saul Kleinfeld that she decided to give it a try.
“I stopped by and asked about the dishes to figure out which I would like or should order first, and I ended up getting offered samples of everything. They had me hooked since day one; I always order a butter/curry chicken plate with more butter than curry or a chicken 65 plate,” Valdez shared. “Rosie’s is so consistent with their service, their flavors, and their social media, which is always updated, so I always know where to find them. I’m so appreciative of them, and I will forever recommend them to all my friends and family!”
For many entrepreneurs, owning a food truck is the first step before expanding into a permanent location. The on-the-go model allows businesses to cultivate clientele across the city by being accessible to customers.
Hernandez also shared that while the goal is to expand into a physical location, Rosie’s Dhaba is still in the beginning stages, and therefore, providing a quality service to the community is the goal with classic dishes, as well as some new elements added to their menu such as biryani rice or paneer butter masala.
According to Hernandez, he acquired the truck in 2018, and the idea of opening a business eventually turned into a dream come true.
“A lot of people here in El Paso are really food-centered, and they try to find good places to eat, where food culture is moving into a more artisanal type of cuisine,” Hernandez said. “We would like to help the nightlife food scene here in El Paso by providing something different that the community can get. Mexican food is very well represented here, but there’s also a lot of food that’s not yet here in the Borderland and I think Indian food was one of them.”