EVERETT -- Ana Solorzano's livelihood is parked near a gas station along Rucker Avenue.
It's red, has wheels and a metal awning that she can prop open.
The Everett woman calls her taco trailer "Ana's Casita" -- literally, her little house.
She spends a lot of time there.
Six days a week, nine hours a day, her casita is parked steps away from a highway clogged with cars.
Buses and trucks whoosh past as she cooks and serves tacos, burritos and other Mexican fare to a stream of people that includes office workers in slacks and laborers in dusty jeans.
"Everything she makes is good," said customer Sean Sloan, a businessman who works around the corner. He said he eats there nearly every day.
Solorzano, a 28-year-old mother of three, sees her little house as a way to feed her family -- and her dreams. She legally immigrated here from Mexico as a child. Her husband is a U.S. citizen and together they are building a better life.
"I'm a hard worker," she said. "This is my chance to do something for the future."
Nationwide, truck food
has expanded far beyond Mexican cuisine to fare such as falafel, dumplings and pizza. In New York, it's gone gastronomically cosmic
with trucks that serve braised oxtail, escargot and encebollado fish soup.
So far here, it's just taco trucks -- with the exception of one mobile coffee van.
Ana's Casita is one of at least nine taco trucks on record with the Snohomish Health District.
At the apex of taco truck popularity last year, there were twice that number.
They are tucked in parking lots and along busy roadways. Most are located in Everett and south along Evergreen Way, which turns into Highway 99.
There's no way to know for sure why half the trucks disappeared but the best guess is the economy, said Randy Durant, lead inspector for the Snohomish Health District.
Many of the taco truck customers appear to be laborers. Less work means fewer hungry workers, he said.
Taco trucks have health inspections records comparable to brick-and-mortar restaurants, Durant said. Taco trucks are required to meet the same requirements. Diners can check health inspection reports for their favorite taco truck online at the health district's website
Most of the trucks offer tacos, burritos and tortas
, the Mexican equivalent of a sandwich. All are a little different.
All offer their own little tacos, usually a double layer of small corn tortillas topped with chopped meat, onion, fresh cilantro and radish slices. Some also come with a roasted jalapeno, avocado slices and a wedge of lime.
Ana's Casita charges 75 cents for a small taco; most people probably need to eat at least three to five to feel satisfied. The most expensive item on her menu is the enchilada plate at just under $5.
Most of the trucks offer a choice of protein. One truck, Taqueria El Viento, (translation: the "wind taco stand" -- read into that what you will) offers lengua -- in English, tongue.
Solorzano said she prefers to stick to steak, pork and chicken. She makes her own salsas, and just about everything, with the exception of the tortillas, is made from scratch, the same as if she were cooking for her family.
If you visit, keep in mind: this is a one-woman operation.
She cooks to order and if the person in front of you happens to want eight enchilada plates for the office, expect a wait.
Despite the economic forces, Ana's Casita is turning a modest profit, Solorzano said.
Maybe it's the food. Maybe it's the force of her personality.
"They say I'm a tough cookie," she said and laughed.
She immigrated to America with her parents when she was 12. First they lived in California, and eventually her family moved to western Washington.
Solorzano said she developed a strong work ethic from her family. She always saw her father and grandfather working long, hard hours as laborers.
As the oldest daughter in a family with eight children, a lot of responsibility was placed on her shoulders.
When she was 15, she got her first job at a hamburger restaurant. She's worked at food service jobs ever since.
Last year, she and her husband used insurance money after his mother's death to pay for the trailer and equipment, which includes a grill, refrigerator and sinks.
She said the $45,000 they put into the trailer and the truck to haul it is an investment in their family.
"We saw this for sale," she said. "Sometimes, you want to work for yourself."
It's a big risk.
Her husband takes care of their three boys and the family relies on her income from the taco truck and another part-time job at a steak house to make ends meet.
Solorzano gets up before 5 a.m. most days and spends four hours prepping food for the taco truck. After she shuts down at 5 p.m., she visits the market for fresh produce.
She estimates she works more than 90 hours a week. She makes time to help her boys say their prayers at night, she said.
"This is just how it is in life," she said. "When you realize what you've got to do in life, you do it."
Solorzano never graduated from high school. Someday, she says she'd like to earn a GED and maybe a college degree. She tells her sons it's good to have an education. An education leads you somewhere.
"I feel this thing inside of me that I can do it," she said. "My hope is I can make it."
Debra Smith: 425-339-3197, firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for the larger version of this map.
View Taco Truck Crawl in a larger map