LAS VEGAS (KLAS)— The hour or longer wait for what millions of TikTok users call “the best mac and cheese in the world” is getting cut in half after becoming an online sensation and allowing the owners to open their first brick-and-mortar restaurant.
The TasteBudz Creole Kitchen food truck has been parking behind the Buffalo Wild Wings near Centennial Parkway and 5th Street in North Las Vegas since April 2021. Customers said they will wait in the long line to try the dishes they saw online.
Gumbo, jerk chicken, collard greens, alfredo pasta, crab boils, and loaded baked potatoes join the famed mac and cheese in several TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook videos by both the owners and Las Vegas social media influencers. The most popular video featuring this food has over 4.1 million views on TikTok.
In September, 8 News Now first highlighted the owners, Marsean “Chef Sean” and Latricsha “Chef Tricsha” Nelson. The husband-and-wife duo made their small-town Illinois dreams a reality with their food truck, and then again recently with the opening of their first brick-and-mortar restaurant near Lake Mead and Decatur.
The keys to this expansion are “love,” “hard work” and millions of social media views.
“I put my love. I put my soul. I put my everything in it,” Chef Tricsha said, standing next to her husband in front of a giant mural of the restaurant’s logo.
“It was destiny because we put the work in. We put in sometimes 18-hour days,” Chef Sean said. “Social media absolutely helped, and we post every day. Multiple times a day.”
He said since going mega-viral, roughly a quarter of the TasteBudz customer base has become tourists lured out of the strip looking for a taste.
“We’ll get waves of people. Like the first day was waves of people from Detroit, and then the next day it was waves of people from San Francisco-the Bay Area,” Chef Sean said.
The rest of the customer base, including regular customer Mark Moskowitz, are lured out of their Las Vegas Valley homes for the same.
“I found it on social media. It was on Instagram,” Moskowitz said while waiting for his order Friday afternoon. “I’m from Chicago, and living in Vegas, you get a lot of visitors. Every single visitor I’ve had, I’ve taken them [to the food truck].”
The TikTok video with 4.1 million views was made by Talia Edralin, better known to her over 225,000 TikTok followers as @tallzz_. She describes herself as a content creator and social media manager whose created content for national brands, like Dutch Bros Coffee and Carls Jr., and currently manages the social media accounts for several Las Vegas restaurants.
“That is actually the best-doing video I’ve ever done,” Edralin said inside the new location. “Restaurants were like, ‘I don’t have the patience to learn this new skill set, can you just take it over for me?’”
She said the social media manager that the Nelsons hired for their business first invited her to the food truck over the summer. While she would charge other businesses and nationally recognized brands anywhere between $500 to $3,000 for a similar post, she says she did it for free to help her fellow “foodie” and social media marketer.
But for other businesses looking for the same success as TasteBudz, Edralin highly suggests finding a professional that does the work she does.
“A person on the internet won’t remember you in a week if you only post once a month, you know? Like, you just need to continue to keep showing up for them. Show that you’re going to be a staple in their life, then they’ll show you that same energy back,” Edralin said. “Just because you went viral for it last month doesn’t mean you’ll go viral for it again.”
The Nelsons agree.
“Social media is the new billboard. Our grandfather might have read the newspaper. We pull out that phone and say, ‘TasteBudz? Oh, I got to go there!’” Chef Sean said. “It’s cross-promotion, cross-marketing, which is beneficial for both parties.”
Edralin added that businesses can do this social media marketing on their own. But, she says it involves daily posts, collaborating with other content creators, and hours of patience and dedication. Also, businesses sometimes do not have the amount of online following that these professionals have.
The grand opening for the TasteBudz Creole Kitchen restaurant is at noon on Saturday. The Nelsons say it is open to the public and includes a ribbon cutting and social media opportunities.