Despite calling his business The Street Food Fighter, Oupekha Baccam’s philosophy is decidedly non-violent: a bumper sticker on the back door of his “mobile food unit” reads “Make tacos, not war.”
“I think food is the universal language. No matter what country you’re from, the one thing people all share is food,” he said.
He opened The Street Food Fighter last July and often can be found parked outside Iowa Brewing Co. in downtown Cedar Rapids, serving up tacos, egg rolls and more.
The business is a side gig for now. His full-time job is general manager at Buffalo Wild Wings on Blairs Ferry Road in Cedar Rapids.
“I do this on my two days off a week. I wanted to do something for myself,” he said. “I love cooking for people and seeing a smile on their face. I like the challenge.”
The name was suggested by his nephews and nieces, based on their love of video games.
“The name stuck. It works; I like traveling and trying different street food,” Baccam said.
He added “mobile food unit” to the name to denote it’s not a full food truck. The tiny trailer must be hitched to a truck to move from place to place. Just 6 feet by 10 feet, everything inside the close-fit kitchen is pretty much within arm’s reach, from the fryers to the grill to the order window.
“It’s cozy. Every inch is valuable,” Baccam said with a laugh. “I always say I pack big flavors into a small space.”
With such a small space, the menu is limited. He usually has tacos, egg rolls and crab rangoon, as well as rotating specials. “Everything is always fresh, never frozen,” he said.
His mother is from Laos and his father is from Vietnam, and their heritage influences his cooking.
“They love to cook. They come out here and help and are super supportive,” Baccam said. “The egg rolls are my mom’s recipe. The tacos are seasoned with Asian flavors. They’re corn tortillas, with lime and cilantro — they look like normal Mexican tacos. But you bit into them and they have Asian fusion flavors.”
He carries that Asian fusion vibe into his rotating specials, which include dishes like Sriracha burgers and teriyaki banh mi. He also loves diving into Midwestern favorites like funnel cakes.
“I didn’t want to limit myself to one style or flavor of food,” he said. “I wanted to give options to people. Just like anything in life, you try to keep your mind open, and I like to try different flavors.”
Going into his first full food truck season, he’s already thinking about the future. The next step for his business, he said, would be to upgrade to a bigger truck. Eventually he dreams of a full-time, brick-and-mortar restaurant of his own — born and raised in Cedar Rapids, the 37-year-old said he wants to stay here long term.
“They’re ready for some good things in Cedar Rapids,” he said. “If we get something bigger, we can expand the menu, we can have more flavors.”
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IF YOU GO:
- What: The Street Food Fighter Mobile Food Unit
- Where: Often parked outside Iowa Brewing Co., 708 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids, or Hazzard County Saloon, 329 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, on Fridays and Saturdays, serving late-night food. Look for the mobile unit at food truck gatherings and other events throughout the summer. Check Facebook or Instagram accounts for location updates.
- Details: (319) 531-6743, facebook.com/Thestreetfoodfighter
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