Three new Mex­i­can ea­ter­ies ar­rive in the metro-east

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - Lifestyle - BY CARA AN­THONY can­[email protected] Cara An­thony: 618-239-2471.

Flip­ping an old Swansea gas sta­tion into a mod­ern taco stand isn’t easy. But Michael Cruz and Ken Laven­der are de­ter­mined give the metro-east a new place to go for Tex-Mex this win­ter.

Valle Taco Ex­press, lo­cated at 1341 N. Illi­nois St., is ex­pected to open soon, Cruz said. The duo is wait­ing for a green light from the vil­lage be­fore a grand open­ing. Their TexMex menu fea­tures clas­sic fa­vorites with a twist.

“Ev­ery­thing is cooked to or­der,” Laven­der said. “It’s hot off the grill and straight to your plate.”

Their new taco stand is one of three new Mex­i­can ea­ter­ies to ar­rive the metro-east this year.

Here’s ev­ery­thing you need to know about the new places to eat in the area.


Be­fore com­ing up with plans to open a taco stand in Swansea, Cruz started with a food truck last year.

The truck, Truck­e­ria

Del Valle, roams around the metro-east all year round. From Belleville and O’Fal­lon to Mas­coutah and Nashville, the truck has made a name for it­self in the metro-east.

“A lot of peo­ple love it,” Cruz said. “Some even say its the best they’ve ever had.”

Most of the menu items on the food truck will be avail­able at Valle Taco Ex­press with it opens. The chicken tacos are a pop­u­lar item on the menu, but the Val­ley taco is what sets the duo a part. The taco has a fried bread shell and is stuffed with ground beef, raw cab­bage, av­o­cado, tomato and other fresh in­gre­di­ents.

Valle Taco Ex­press will also of­fer Mex­i­can street corn, dessert and other side items. The duo also wants to add an out­door beer gar­den to the space.

Can’t wait to try it? You don’t have to wait un­til the taco stand opens to try the menu.

Truck­e­ria Del Valle Food will con­tinue to pop up around the metro-east this win­ter. You find the truck’s sched­ule on Face­book. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 217-3300328.

“I al­ways wanted to open my own restau­rant,” Cruz said. “My vi­sion was com­pletely dif­fer­ent than what we have now, but I love what we have.”


Casa Maria in Down­town Belleville re­cently opened a sec­ond lo­ca­tion at Scott Air Force Base. Lo­cated at 817 Seib­ert Road, Casa Maria Ex­press of­fers bur­ri­tos, en­chi­ladas, puffy chicken tacos and more.

Owner Daniel Gon­za­lez opened the restau­rant’s first lo­ca­tion three years ago at 100 N. High Street in Belleville. The new ex­press lo­ca­tion is only open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mon­day through Fri­day.

The ex­press lo­ca­tion is closed Satur­day and Sun­day. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 618-416-2151.


Look­ing for­ward to the open­ing of Rio Grande?

The for­mer home to Ap­ple­bee’s in Fairview Heights will open later this year. The own­ers wanted to open in the fall, but ran into de­lays.

When it fi­nally opens, lo­cals might not rec­og­nize the Fairview Heights build­ing. New seat­ing, fresh paint, new floors and mo­saic tile have trans­formed the for­mer home of Ap­ple­bee’s into a Mex­i­can restau­rant with a new look and a new vibe.

Next door, en­tre­pre­neur Jack Chan plans to open a seafood restau­rant in the for­mer home of Joe’s Crab Shack in Fairview Heights. More new ea­ter­ies will open in 2019, here’s a look at eight new restau­rants com­ing the metro-east.


A look at the menu at Valle Taco Ex­press.

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