When Maria Lopez decided she wanted to own her own business, she bought a taco truck, drove it up from Los Angeles, and found a spot on First Avenue South where she could park it. But the rent she paid annihilated her profits.
Back at home, Lopez faced another problem: construction. The house where she'd lived for 11 years, on Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, was suddenly awash in backhoes, pipes, and construction workers working feverishly to establish Sound Transit's first light-rail line.
Inspired to turn a pair of overripe avocados into guacamole, Lopez asked the King County Health Department if they would let her park her truck on her own front lawn. "They said, 'Why not? It's your house!'" she recounts.
So, for the past three years, six mornings a week, Lopez has descended the steps of her ranch house, unlocked the door to her truck, and commenced preparing salsa and refried beans. She's covered the front half of the grass with gravel so her customers can drive up and park on it and set out a plastic picnic table with a rainbow-striped umbrella. If you passed by at noon on any given day, half the people sitting under it were wearing orange nylon vests.
Though Lopez advertises tacos and tortas, she comes from Ilobasco, El Salvador, and her true specialty is pupusas. She buys freshly ground masa at a nearby tortilla factory and stuffs fat cakes of it with beans, shredded pork, and cheese, then griddles the pupusas to order and serves them with cabbage slaw and tomato salsa.
Sound Transit's light-rail tracks are now laid, the road fully widened. Their work now complete, her prime clientele have migrated farther north and south. Once again, Lopez is scouting for new locations. "Maybe I'll open a Salvadoran restaurant around here," she hints. We can only hope. — Jonathan Kauffman 8303 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S.