Don’t get mad at me for the headline on what is a night of triumph for Big Truck Tacos. I say “misfits” with only the utmost respect and yes, a fondness, for the intended subjects of this blog. It’s crazy to think that little more than a year has passed since I first met the “twins” at Big Truck Tacos. The restaurant at NW 23 and Dewey wasn’t open yet. But I had spent a few weeks following their Facebook page, which documented their efforts to create something different for Oklahoma City.
I was eager to meet Kathryn Mathis and Cally Johnson. I was familiar with Chris Lower, the experienced restaurant operator who had introduced the two veteran chefs. But Mathis and Johnson were complete strangers to me.
The restaurant hadn’t yet opened when I took the above photo. The walls were still being painted, the kitchen was still being set up, and the truck … well, it was big, but looking at it I wasn’t quite convinced it was entirely road-worthy. It was apparent early on that Cally was the daring extrovert and Kathryn was the more reserved thoughtful introvert. Kathryn and Cally took a building that was the ugly duckling along NW 23 and turned it into an inspiration for anyone seeking to revive the urban core. They took an ugly truck and turned it into a roving piece of art eagerly greeted throughout the metro area.
Mathis and Johnson didn’t pretend to be people they were not; indeed, their approach to running the restaurant often involves faith. You’ve got to believe that they will keep the long line moving. You’ve got to believe that if you order “the fifth,” that it will be damn good even though they won’t tell you what it is. You’ve got to believe that the communal tables you may have to share with complete strangers (seating is limited) might result in some great new acquaintances.
Some people are born with money, born with being naturals to be the coolest kids in school. And the rest of us? At some level or another, we’re misfits. We don’t fit neatly into ideals of what it means to be cool, to be perfect. And when you meet Cally and Kathryn, you see two people who had to work hard to get their shot at success. Credit Chris Lower with recognizing their potential. More than 14,000 people are “fans” of the taco twins. They’re fans of the cast of fellow “misfits” who work behind the scenes to make this restaurant the huge success it is.
It’s quite fitting that our local rock star celebrity, Wayne Coyne, stopped in at Big Truck Tacos on Thursday night before heading out of town for another concert series. Coyne himself relishes the life of the underdog. He lives in Classen-10-Penn – the same impoverished neighborhood where he got his start so very long ago. Despite the polling of the local weekly newspaper, Coyne and his fellow Flaming Lips are most likely to be seen in the upstart Plaza District, where as one friend recently noted your average retailer or artist is most likely subsisting on about $25,000 a year and living in the back of their shop or studio.
So tonight we now know that Wayne Coyne will soon be joined by the “taco twins” (a fun bit of irony aimed at the obvious and wonderful differences between Cally and Kathryn) in becoming the new cool kids in town. They knew they had a loyal following. Now they know that following was strong enough to win them $10,000 and a shot at appearing in a Food Network series that is televised nationwide.
Congratulations ladies. Just remember, don’t apologize for the bones, don’t hide the tattoos, never reveal what’s in the Fifth (well, you might be nice to me just once…), and bring back the Big Johnson just one more time. And whatever you do, remember how Wayne Coyne has stayed planted in Classen-10-Penn and don’t even think about abandoning that wonderfully small, worn-out former hamburger stand at NW 23 and Dewey. (History note: records indicate this building was erected in 1965 by B.D. Eddie. Building permits showed the cost of construction at $15,000 and it was first home to a Sparky’s Drive-In, which at one point had three locations in Oklahoma City.