By Rose L. Thayer

Fort Hood Herald

An Austin favorite for late night dining hit Fort Hood last week, serving up Mexican dishes, with a Korean twist - out of a truck.

Chi'Lantro can be found parked at the shoppette at Battalion Avenue and 19th Street. Business is already approaching that of the truck chain's more established locations in Austin, pulling in nearly 60 tickets each at breakfast and lunch.

"I think a lot of people tried us in Austin downtown and they recognize us," said owner Jae Kim. He began his business with one truck in Austin. Now he has two there and has been featured on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.

Kim's already enjoying his newest venture.

"We're excited to be at Fort Hood," Kim said. "I think we bring something different."

Even in its second week on post, the truck is already developing regular diners.

"It was really good," said Spc. Maurice Searcy, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, while waiting Monday for a rice bowl during his second visit to the food truck. "I like that it has cilantro in it. It's hard to get a dish with fresh herbs here."

Sgt. Michelle Castaneda, 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, happened to drive by and see the truck one day, so she turned in and was pleasantly surprised it wasn't a "roach coach." It's the truck's signature sauce, she said, that keeps her coming back.

"It's good on everything they've got here," she said. "I've had the hamburger, the quesadilla and the burrito and they're all pretty good."

But Chi'Lantro isn't revealing what's in its "magic sauce."

"It's a Korean-style spicy mayo," said Jesse Maldonado, who's worked for Chi'Lantro for the past year. He's been leaving Austin around 3:30 a.m. to set up the truck for breakfast on post.

"Soldiers are very nice and polite," Maldonado said. "It's a fresh change from serving drunk people downtown."

Chi'Lantro is able to operate on post through a contract with Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Snappy Snacks, its food truck provider.

"Currently, there is no food on this side of post," said DiAnn Salinas, services business tech supervisor for AAFES. Aside from dining facilities, the closest food to the area is the Mega Food Court and the Warrior Way Public Exchange.

"(The soldiers) love it. They are busy from morning until afternoon," Salinas said.

Chi'Lantro plans to serve breakfast from early morning until 10:30 a.m. Lunch is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"We are growing everyday and adding more and more clientele," Maldonado said.

Entrees cost $5-6. For more on Chil'antro's menu, which includes Korean-Mexican fusion dishes such as bulgogi quesadillas with kimchi, go to www.chilantrobbq.com/menu.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463.

Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

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