LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A North Las Vegas food truck, parked behind a chicken wing restaurant, is gaining serious traction online. Thanks to social media, it’s soon getting even bigger.
From a small town in Illinois to behind the Buffalo Wild Wings near Centennial Parkway and 5th Street, Marsean “Chef Sean” Nelson and his wife, Latricsha “Chef Tricsha”, had a dream.
“Every holiday, especially the Fourth of July, everybody would come (over). We never had any food left. We’d catch people making their plates, going to the car, hiding them, coming back, making another plate, eating that one,” Marsean said amidst a row of customers Friday evening.
The pair moved their family of eight to the valley years ago in hopes of breaking into Las Vegas’ booming culinary scene. But, making a name for themselves wasn’t easy, Chef Sean says.
“When we came out here, we started from the ground up, just putting plates in people’s face. Like, ‘taste this!’” Marsean said as he imitated shoving a plate in someone’s face. “If you know me, you know me from your local barbershop, beauty salon, corner store.”
In the interim, recipes Chef Tricsha created in her kitchen were getting noticed on Instagram. Followers soon turned to customers, enough so for TasteBudz Creole Kitchen food truck to be born in April 2021.
With four of the Nelson’s six children working with their parents, the family business began serving up jerk chicken, beef, greens, alfredo pasta, corn bread, and other creole recipes to a growing list of regular customers across the valley. Marsean said the current location’s property manager, which houses a Buffalo Wild Wings, decided to allow them to keep shop set up out back.
“We don’t get the drive-past traffic. Everybody that comes, comes looking for us. They know we’re here,” Marsean said.
But, out of all the dishes, one became the star: Mac and cheese. They noticed content posted online about it was drawing in more customers.
Then, after connecting with the local foodie community, videos of customers calling the dish “the best mac and cheese” they’ve ever had began going viral on TikTok. The most popular video is from @tallzz_ and has nearly one million likes and four million views.
“We got people that just fly in, and they’re like ‘hey, I saw you from Detroit. I saw you on TikTok. I’m from Arkansas. I saw you on Instagram,” Marsean said.
The truck has become so popular, it’s not uncommon to see wait times of over an hour. Marsean said customers may not like the wait, but appreciate the reward.
“We like to make it all fresh, so it takes a little while longer, you know what I mean? And that’s what people don’t understand,” Marsean said while cooking plates for a wall-full of orders Friday evening. “Some people get hangry as we call it. But, you know, once they get the taste, they’re like, ‘Okay, okay. I’ll be back.”
Other customers don’t mind the wait. A woman, going by Minnie, drove 20 minutes from her home Friday evening after placing her order over text over an hour earlier.
“I’m all about it,” Minnie said while in line for her order. “I just actually moved here from Indiana, so I’m trying to find places that look and feel like home. And this gave me that vibe.”
After close to a year of popularity, demand has finally outgrown the truck. The Nelson family is opening their first permanent restaurant location near Decatur and Lake Mead at the beginning of next year, Marsean said.
“That was always our goal, was to get into a brick and mortar, but the demand has us getting in there a little bit faster than we expected,” Marsean said. “The response has just been, like, a pouring out of just love and positivity.”
TasteBudz Creole Kitchen can be found at 70 E Centennial Parkway from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 2 pm to 10 pm Saturday and Sunday. The owners ask customers to place an order over text or call at 702-300-9123.