Offering a West Coast crunch

Seen in this Saturday photo, from left, are Ella, Rose and Jim Curnutt, owner/operators of Tamale Rose, a popular local food truck.

OWOSSO — For foodies looking for authentic West Coast Mexican fare, a popular local food truck serves up chorizo, carnitas, tacos, breakfast burritos, nachos and more Saturday mornings during the Downtown Farmers Market.

Rose Curnutt was born and raised in San Diego, and husband Jim Curnutt is from Zilwaukee, but now they’re both proud Owosso locals.

“This is our 13th year,” Rose Curnutt said. “We started here at the farmers market with just a pot of tamales and a little card table. I was working at a local coffee place on Washington Street and it had gone out of business. I had just had (daughter) Ella, so I was like, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do.’ (Jim) had a job. But I wanted a job. He said no one would buy tamales from you.

“But I said I’m gonna try it. I’m going to take $100. It was a pot of tamales. I don’t even know how many, probably 100. And they all sold. It all started from there,” she said.

After going back the following week with frozen tamales and getting a good reception from the community, Curnutt began to sell other items, and Tamale Rose took off.

“Eventually we started selling breakfast burritos and tamales from a small canopy,” she said. “Making chips and salsa and doing all that. We did that for about five years.”

But the Curnutts said they realized they needed to buy a trailer to sell their wares, in order to expand their business.

“Every Saturday when we left the market, we’d see this trailer that this guy was selling. His wife had used it for a lemonade stand,” Rose Curnutt said. “We didn’t have the money to buy the trailer. How would you even rent a food trailer?

“One day, the guy was pulling it out as we passed. We stopped and talked to him. He was like, ‘Well, I know who you are. I’ve heard about your tamales at the farmers market. Give me your number and I’ll talk to my wife,’” she said. “He said he would take payments, and I paid him the balance when I got my income taxes.”

After they purchased the trailer, Jim Curnutt did all the upgrades, except for the fire suppression system that was necessary to bring the trailer up to health code. The trailer now has a full stove, cooler and counter areas.

And Tamale Rose has plenty of customers every Saturday during the farmers market.

Jim Curnutt, however, said his dream is to eventually open a restaurant.

“That’s my goal,” he said. “We argue about that all the time. But I love doing this. You travel to different places and meet different people. You meet some characters.”

Rose Curnutt said her background of growing up on the West Coast gives customers a chance to experience authentic Mexican food they won’t find anywhere else locally.

“To me, the places I’ve been around here are more Tex-Mex or Texano,” Rose Curnutt said. “Where they Americanize their food too much — lettuce, tomato, sour cream. You won’t see that here. We have queso fresco, cilantro, lime and my homemade salsa. Everything is fresh and homemade — rice, beans, chips — everything. You won’t find a ‘wet burrito’ in San Diego. What is that?

“That’s what I try to stay away from. You eat carnita tacos, carne asada tacos, chorizo, machaca. You get people here in Michigan who don’t know what those are. I get that from a lot of people who are from or have been to the West Coast. This is authentic. Cilantro, onions and lime. The ingredients are what bring out the flavor.”

The Curnutts offer weekly specials, such as the Cubano, a Cuban-style sandwich which consists of ham, cheese, pickle and mustard on grilled torta bread. They plan on offering street corn (elotes) — corn on the cob topped with a tangy, creamy sauce, when corn comes into season.

Depending on the price of beef, they may also add carne asada tacos and burritos, or fish and shrimp tacos, along with other items to the menu later in the summer or fall. Tamale Rose is also available for catering and special events.

For more information, call (989) 980-0116, visit tamalerose.weebly.com or visit the Tamale Rose Facebook page.

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