Rito Loco is one of the most sought-after, well-known food trucks in all of D.C. Owners Daniel Diaz and Louie Hankins has been named Best Food Truck by the Washington Post and Miami Times (among others), while also being ranked nationally by Forbes Magazine, and The Daily Meal, and the U.S. Health Food Council. We’re so honored to have them as a vendor at Zerocater—keep reading for Daniel’s story on how they got started and what to expect from them in the future!
Your whole concept started with a breakfast burrito, but there’s no such thing on your menu. What’s the story behind it?
Isn’t that funny? This story started with a BBQ at my house. It went all day and into the night, and I made my patented breakfast burritos the next morning. I was with Louie, and we threw in Velvetta Shells and Cheese and the marinade we used to make ribs the day before. They were so good. That’s when the concept was born.
So why not serve them on the regular menu? We’d love to try these!
In D.C., you can’t park a food truck anywhere before 9:30 a.m. However, we just launched our store. We aren’t open for breakfast—yet—but soon we’ll have breakfast burritos available all day. It’s pretty ironic; those burritos started our concept, and it’s taken four years to get them on our menu.
What’s your favorite burrito or dish on your menu?
Our new favorite is the Fish Tacos—it’s everyone’s favorite. Before, it was the Rib Rito, which is the crowd favorite as well. I would probably say I eat the Mojita Rito the most, which is made of grilled chicken.
What’s your favorite dish to cook for friends and family?
I like to do everything. I like to try new flavors. I love Italian food, Cuban food, Spanish food; anything spicy.
Everything I make I try to bring into the store. We have an employee who is in culinary school and he had to make a recipe for peanut butter. We came up with a recipe for Peanut Butter Thai Chicken. I know it sounds horrible, but it was amazing. I love taking something you wouldn’t think would taste good, and try to make it go together. Louie and I work really hard, and it’s really refreshing to do something fun.
How did you learn to cook?
Honestly, I learned to cook because I love to eat so much! My mom and my abuela taught me a lot. My abuela is 100% Cuban and taught me to make real, authentic Cuban food. I also just have a good sense of taste and smell and can tell which flavors go well together.
What were you doing before you launched your food truck?
Name anything that was sales or commission-based, and we did it. Louie sold million dollar homes for 15 years. I sold anything from t-shirts to mortgages, to cars, to gym memberships.
Louie had travelled in Europe, and one of his favorite places was Ibiza, Spain. In the US, there is this philosophy that we live to work. There, you work to live. After a plan to set up a Cuban restaurant in Tysons fell through, I took all my money and went travelling. I was gone for a year, in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It changed my life. Originally, Louie and I thought of opening a taco place in Ibiza, but eventually, we decided to build our concept here. It’s becoming so much bigger than we expected.
You’ve just opened your first brick and mortar. What are your plans for the future?!
We’re in week five. Our plans right now are to focus heavily on the store for the next 60 days. We’ve hired some great people, put in a ton of hours, and we would like to make this as sustainable and scalable as possible.
We would love to open a second store in the GW area. For the past 2.5 years, we have built a great following at Howard. There’s something special about putting a storefront where college students are—there’s so much marketing and social media at your fingertips. From there, we would love to launch more stores, extending to Northern Virginia and other markets.
You’ve won so many awards and have created such a following with your truck. To what do you owe it?
Honestly, it comes down to having a partner. Louie and I both have business degrees, but we just play really well off each other. The things he brings to the table, I wouldn’t even think of, and vice versa. It’s a blessing.
When we started our food truck, we scouted out 85 different trucks in D.C. We waited in line. We ate the food. We asked advice. Everyone said, “Don’t do it.”
I’m so grateful to have someone to do this with. The bumps and bruises along the way wouldn’t have been the same if we weren’t there to balance things out. In this job, you may work three times as hard as the 9-5. But, we had a passion for cooking, we had a concept we could see growing, and our only goal right now is to go out and kick a**.