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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Real Taste Taqueria

Chef Curiel Bame shows off the Oaxaca heirloom corn from Mexico that he uses to create his fresh-made tortillas. Brittany Krape, the pastry cook at the restaurant, is the mastermind behind the delicious homemade treats and desserts at Real Taste. She also helps out with the tortilla-making process, sometimes making more than 3,000 corn tortillas a week.

Chef Curiel Bame has always known he wanted to share his love of food with others and Cinco de Mayo on Wednesday, May 5 is the perfect time to check out his fare. His menu is designed with a fusion of American and authentic Mexican flavors to appeal to all.

From the time he was a young boy in El Paso, Bame loved watching his mother and grandmother create authentic Mexican dishes. After graduating from the International Culinary Academy of Le Cordon Bleu in Pittsburgh at 17 years old, Bame opened his first restaurant at age 21. That led him to garnering cooking awards throughout western Pennsylvania.

When Bame met his wife, Erica, the two realized their dream in 2016 by designing, building and opening up the purple Real Taste food truck, nicknamed Frijole. Two years later, based on the success of the truck and their loyal customer following, he opened the Real Taste Taqueria restaurant at 909 Allegheny St, Jersey Shore. “You can get what you order out of the food truck at the restaurant,” Bame said. “You don’t just have to go to the trucks to try it.”

Then in July 2020, he purchased a second food truck – the 28-foot white Gordita – that serves up tasty dishes at New Trail Brewing, in the rear of 240 Arch Street in Williamsport.

While many small businesses were struggling last year with restrictions brought about by COVID-19, Bame got creative. In August, he bought a tortilla machine to further his goal of creating all-organic, all-natural, gluten-free tortillas featuring only three ingredients: corn, water and lime. These corn tortillas will be available on his two food trucks and in the restaurant and eventually distributed to other local businesses and grocery stores. He uses traditional Mexican Oaxaca corn, which he calls an “heirloom corn” that is grown in higher elevations specifically to make corn flour.

When not in school, Kale Bame, 8, can often be found helping count and bag the tortillas and chips at Real Taste Taqueria, Jersey Shore. His parents, Chef Curiel and Erica Bame, of Williamsport, own the restaurant and business’s two food trucks.

“I had to innovate and recreate every time a shutdown happened (in 2020),” Chef Bame said. “COVID-19 really affected our catering business.” In previous years, Real Taste was catering for about 30 weddings a year.

Bame had consistent business during 2020 thanks to those who supported the food trucks, delivery and take-out services.

One regular customer, Tracy Haas-Ungard of South Williamsport, said she and her husband love Real Taste Taqueria because the food is locally sourced and super fresh. “You can tell they put so much care and love into what they do and that owning a restaurant and food trucks isn’t just business to them,” she said. “Curiel and Erica pour their heart and soul into creating an amazing dining experience. It is more like enjoying a meal at a good friend’s house.”

Bame said that Jersey Shore has been especially accommodating to his business by allowing him to place picnic benches outside and a place to park Frijole when not in use. He uses local businesses such as Thompson’s for his meats and Lingle’s Neighborhood Market for his produce.

“This is a good location – it’s between State College and Williamsport,” he said. “And a physical building became a place to store the food for the trucks, which are the lifeline of the business.”

Pre-COVID, Bame had a staff of 10 with two sous chefs and a pastry cook who makes custom cookies, cakes and pies. Unfortunately, he had to lay off some people due to the pandemic.

If there’s one menu item he wants people to try, it’s the fish tacos, which are made with Mahi-Mahi, an Asian slaw and mango salsa.

Bame makes all of the sauces for the trucks and restaurant, even though it is a bit of a process. Just like a deli, he sells them by the pint or quart. But for now, he is focusing on growing the tortilla side of the business. During the slow season – from December to February – he estimated he will make 3,000 corn tortillas a week on a machine that can roll out 800 an hour.

Food truck locations and restaurant hours may vary, so visit https://www.facebook.com/RTTaqueria/ or https://www.realtastefoodtruck.com/ for up-to-date information.

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