There’s a stretch of I-70 in southeastern Utah which runs through a landscape nearly bleached of color. The roadside buttes are shaded in tones of grey and white, holding less color than the pavement. There is some greenery, but not much. The day we drove this road, there were no clouds in the sky. A field of blue over a field of grey.

That all changed once we reached the town of Green River and spotted a former gas station repainted in bright yellow and orange hues. Under its awning was a truck reading MEXICAN FOOD and a sign reading TACOS.

Blinker, turn, park.

Tacos, fixings, barbacoa.

Tacos La Pasadita wasn’t the first gas station-turned-restaurant that we’ve eaten at, and it likely won’t be the last. In fact, we saw a half dozen similar conversions as we drove further east on I-70 later that day.

But Tacos La Pasadita stood out from those other signals of population change, more fuel efficient cars, and a shifting economic landscape.

This former Shell station between a highway and a state park offered the perfect setup for al fresco dining under a built-in canopy. It was in an unmissable location, and their food trucks allowed the owners to avoid the cost of converting the store into a kitchen. Instead of worrying about recouping that expense, they were able to simply focus on serving food to their customers.

It was as genius as it was delicious, and it provided us with the fuel we needed to continue our drive through a landscape bleached of color but not of beauty.

Essay by Dan Meade
Photos by Dan Meade & Rob Bellinger
Date of visit: 8/25/2017
Date of Publication: 07/04/2020