Filipino Food Is 'Love, Soy Sauce, Vinegar & Garlic' For Meat On The Street's Alexa Alfaro
One food truck that's become known among Milwaukee’s food truck scene is Meat on the Street. Sibling team Alexa and Matthew Alfaro started the truck about six years ago. They were the first to offer Filipino food of any kind in Milwaukee — truck or restaurant. That remains to be the case today, although now outside of their food truck, Meat on the Street also has a restaurant location at Eleven25 at Pabst.
While being the only Filipino restaurant may be good for business, Alexa Alfaro says that it shows how Milwaukee's cuisine is lacking in diversity.
"Yeah, it’s great to monopolize, but there’s strength in numbers and it takes a village in any community," she notes. "Milwaukee's Asian population alone is under 10% and then Filipinos make up a part of that."
"The hardest misconception I think is just awareness, just not even knowing anything about Filipinos," Alfaro adds. The lack of awareness also adds to the difficulty of finding ingredients, which can be the most challenging part of running the business.
"There's not a lot. There's local Asian stores that will order specialty items for us, but it's either very expensive [or] it's inconsistent to get in," Alfaro notes. "Even getting a vendor to drop us off groceries was difficult in the beginning."
Meat on the Street is based off of what she and her brother grew up eating and cooking with their parents, according to Alfaro. Her mom and dad are both from the Philippines and invested in the truck after Alfaro wanted to change course from engineering school. She notes that using a food truck is a great way to share her family's culture.
"Filipino culture and identity — food is a large part of that because a lot of those areas are underdeveloped," Alfaro explains. "It’s like, I can’t give you anything, but I can make you a meal with my hands and give you love in that form. So food is love in our household."
The Philippines is made up of over 7,600 islands, so Alfaro says there's no way they can represent every aspect of Filipino food. "Filipino cuisine is resourceful. We have staple dishes, but they can be cooked a million different ways and that's dependent on where you're located in the Philippines, what region, what water access do you have, what local ingredients can you buy."
Overall, Alfaro says people describe Filipino food as "a hug in a dish, history on a plate. For me, it's love and my staple ingredients that we use is soy sauce, vinegar and garlic."
And her go-to dish without fail? Pork sticks with white rice and soy sauce.
Alexa Alfaro is featured in a Q & A with Ann Christenson in this month’s Milwaukee Magazine. You can listen to Lake Effect's full conversation with Alfaro here: