Launch day @ the Tulsa Area United Way HQ

Launch day @ the Tulsa Area United Way HQ

T-Town Tacos is all about breakfast taco goodness.

Our tacos are made fresh every day from the finest ingredients. But that's not really the important part. This is: T-Town breakfast tacos are delicious. They are that perfect savory blend of breakfast staples that'll help power you through your morning and keep you coming back for more.

But that's not our story. This is: In early April 2016, Youth Services of Tulsa launched T-Town Tacos. Opening day went down at the headquarters of the Tulsa Area United Way, and we sold out. Sales have been strong since, and word is getting out.

Why did we sell out? Because our breakfast tacos are awesome. T-Town Tacos come in bacon, sausage, veggie and chorizo. They are prepared daily at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma from recipes created by Chef Jeff Marlow. The tacos are accompanied by two fresh-made salsas, one red, one Verde.

If you work or live near downtown Tulsa, chances are you're going to see one of our bright red tricycles being ridden by any one the employees of T-Town Tacos in their bright yellow shirts.  

T-Town Tacos employees are clients of YST who have participated in the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma's Culinary Trade Program, which is run in partnership with YST.

The enterprise is already having an impact on the employees.

"We've already noticed how much more these youth feel a part of the community," says Wes Rose, YST Social Enterprise Specialist. "They aren't used to that. People are embracing them. It's been a pleasant surprise."

How it Began

The Tulsa Area United Way put out a call for applicants for its Social Innovation Grant program. The program inspires creativity and innovation for ideas and strategy to tackle what TAUW CEO Mark Graham called, "stubborn social challenges." Ideas would need to address three areas: education, health and safety, and financial stability. T-Town Tacos provides all three to some of Tulsa's at-risk and homeless youth. 

"It's an opportunity to provide youth hands-on job training while they earn a wage," says Tania Pryce, YST Assistant Director. "They are better able to succeed in their first job because they've had this training and experience."

T-Town Tacos is a partnership between YST and the Food Bank, a natural extension of the already existing partnership between the two organizations. It developed from "a lot of people putting their ideas together," says Pryce.

"There are not a lot of breakfast options downtown, and there are a lot of people. We chose breakfast tacos and this format because we believed it met a need in the community and was within the scope of what could be done well.

"Food brings people together."

The Food Bank and YST each provide a full-time staff person to assist in operations of T-Town Tacos. YST selects youth employees from the Food Bank’s Culinary Trade Program. Each employee receives a paycheck, culinary skills development, job training, hands-on experience, a reference for future job applications, case management services, and support. 

Each detail of the enterprise has been considered for the value it provides to the youth employees, even the tricycles.

“Wellness is an area of emphasis at YST and we saw bicycles as an opportunity to get young people moving,” says Pryce. “Also, transportation can be a significant barrier for homeless and transitional youth and bikes were a mechanism to overcome this obstacle.”

T-Town Tacos officially arrived during this year's Blank Canvas. Lines to sample the tacos were often more than 20 deep, and patrons expressed regret that they couldn't vote for the tacos during the Food Truck competition.

Baring inclement weather, Tulsans can expect to see the trikes at rotating locations downtown Monday through Friday. Once you've had one, you'll for sure want more, and for that, you'll need to follow T-Town Tacos on Facebook and Twitter, or by visiting www.t-towntacos.com. Tacos are $3 each, and large and catering orders can be placed on the website.

"So far, it's gone smoother than any of us hoped for," says Pryce. "It's been great to see the community's support. Of course, they are really good tacos."