If your idea of a quesadilla is two tortillas joined by a thin layer of melted cheese, then you haven’t run into The Fat Queso. On this unconventional food truck, the quesadillas are bodaciously bulky, defiantly fusion, and dressed to impress.
“The quesadilla has always been put to the side, as a side thing that only kids would eat. So that’s why we made this an adult thing,” said Rommel Herrera, owner of The Fat Queso, who saw potential to break the dish out from its confinement on appetizer and kids menus. “It’s always been hidden, but with this truck, it’s going to come out. It’s a quesadilla revolution!”
Taking inspiration from Mexican, Asian, and American cuisines, The Fat Queso folds heaping portions of cheese and meat, shrimp, vegetables, and/or puffy pasta into 12-inch tortillas. Each thickly assembled quesadilla—including the vegan versions—has a specific combination of ingredients, giving each its own distinctive taste, enhanced with housemade aiolis and sauces.
The truck’s namesake quesadilla, The Fat Queso, is brimming with Asian flavors. “We took the Korean bulgogi and toppings for banh mi and made it Mexican,” Rommel described. The beef is sweetly marinated, paired with a tangy mix of carrots, slaw, and cilantro with lime. As with all the quesadilla options, sharp cheddar supplies the cheesy flavor and meltiness. But The Fat Queso is the only quesadilla that also includes a dose of buttery brie, Rommel’s favorite cheese.
For a range of textures, The Miso Cheesy quesadilla groups miso-marinated chicken with a crunchy medley of almonds, brussel sprouts, and slaw, topped with creamy garlic chipotle aioli. For a contrast of flavors, The Fat Shrimp quesadilla folds garlic-peppered shrimp with tart dried cranberries and smooth avocado aioli. “I tasted it, and I was like holy sh!t this is good,” Rommel said of the unlikely combination. “I always tell people it’s like an explosion in your mouth. I haven’t tasted anything like that anywhere.”
Doubling down on the concept of comfort food, The Big Southern quesadilla is a Texas-sized feast of pulled pork, mac and cheese, cheddar cheese, and a tornado of barbeque sauce. The pork is slow cooked for four hours, and the barbecue sauce is made from scratch. A secret menu vegetarian alternative without the pork is called the Mac Daddy, stuffed with the same cheesy pasta and extra sharp cheddar.
The vegan quesadillas also stand on their own. The Southern Vegan features pulled king oyster mushrooms instead of pork, plus vegan mac and cheese and vegan cheddar. The Fat Vegan is stuffed with black bean mango salsa and fried avocado. “That in itself has a taste that’s totally different than anything you’ve ever tasted,” said Rommel.
To compile the copious fillings and ensure that the cheese gets thoroughly melty and gooey, The Fat Queso’s quesadillas take about 8-10 minutes to cook. Once done, they’re cut into five slices and carefully arranged in a to-go box with overlapping layers showcasing a cross section of each hefty slice. The truck’s chef, Sergio Hernandez, then artfully drizzles sweeping lines of aioli or sauce across the open box, finishing with a sprinkle of sesame seeds or spring onions.
“When I serve customers, I don’t close the box. Because to Sergio, it’s a work of art. That is like his canvas right there,” said Rommel, pointing to a splashy example.
Take a look at the side items for even more visually intriguing options, like the Crispy Taro Lime Chips. These coaster-sized chips are made from fresh, thinly sliced taro root, deep-fried to order and seasoned with chili lime salt. Each individual chip has characteristic purple speckles and is perhaps four times the size of a potato chip, with a firmer crunch and a creamier, nuttier taste.
Also on the side menu, The Dirty Cup is the truck’s version of Mexican esquites, covered with a blazing red blanket of Flaming Hot Cheetos crumbs. Below this glowing surface are freshly grilled corn kernels and heaps of cotija cheese to help cut the heat.
Not to be outdone, the Avocado Fries flaunt the greenness of freshly sliced avocados through a crisp, beer battered layer of tempura. And even the potatoes on The Fat Queso truck get gussied up. The Dirty Fries are nearly a meal in itself, covered with your choice of meat, plus cheese, black beans, and jalapenos. The more modestly dressed fries wear a coat of garlic parmesan, or go au naturale with a hint of salt. Likewise, sweet potato fries are simply seasoned with black pepper and brown sugar.
Though the menu offers generous portions and enough variety to keep each visit interesting, Rommel expects to continue experimenting with the possibilities. Feedback from customers and peers has encouraged him to develop a Filipino-themed quesadilla packed with chicken adobo and garlic rice or papaya salad, which may see its debut on the truck in May. Rommel’s appetite to include Filipino fusion also stems from his upbringing, having learned how to cook from his grandmother, who operated her own restaurant in the Philippines. His grandfather operated a trucking business that transported livestock.
“I kind of carried on their tradition in my own little way. I put their two businesses together in one,” he said. “I owe it to both of them.”
Having managed a burger restaurant in West Hollywood for several years, Rommel was able build up enough experience and savings to start The Fat Queso food truck nearly a year ago. Though he recognizes that being in the food business is hard work, his enthusiasm is fueled by enthusiasm from the truck’s customers.
“I put my life savings into this thing. I love doing this,” Rommel explained. “To me, we have great food and I love to serve people. The look on their face, the smile, when they comment…it makes me happy.”