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A New San Jose Food Truck Fuses Filipino, Mexican and Hawaiian Flavors

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a burrito, chilaquiles, and lumpia are showcased on a yellow table outdoors
Three dishes from Mestizo showcase the food truck's many cultural influences: Filipino lumpia; a Mexican burrito with fried chicken, gravy and mac salad; and chilaquiles topped with Hawaiian kalua pork. (Alan Chazaro)

¡Hella Hungry! is a column about Bay Area foodmakers, exploring the region’s culinary cultures through the mouth of a first-generation local.

For anyone with childhood memories of growing up in the South Bay, San Jose’s Berryessa Flea Market — or “La Pulga,” as it’s endearingly known — has long been a haven of joy, particularly for immigrant families. La Pulga truly had it all.

For as long as I can remember, the flea market has always been a humble space for entrepreneurial beginnings. At one point, my mom even ran her own stand selling used clothes there.

More recently, though, the historic flea market, like much of the region, has undergone seismic redevelopments. There’s now a BART station within walking distance, adding metropolitan accessibility to the formerly industrial area — but also displacing many longtime, predominantly Latinx vendors. Across the street, there’s a glamorous new condominium complex where a dusty parking lot used to be. It all underscores the ongoing contradictions of a region that is yearning to grow while simultaneously introducing a new set of costly challenges for longtime community members.

Despite its struggles and the ensuing public backlash, the Berryessa Flea Market — which is still among the largest open-air markets in the United States — remains vibrant in a different kind of way. There’s a funky beer garden with live music and a weekly Friday night market. The reimagined space has allowed emerging food makers to gain visibility by introducing an assortment of new cuisines and experiences.

a crowd gathers in front of a food truck in San Jose
Mestizo is building a loyal following in the South Bay with appearances at La Pulga in San Jose. (Alan Chazaro)

That new wave includes Mestizo, a homegrown trio of Filipino Americans who roll around the 408 in their food truck (not to be confused with San Francisco’s Yucatan-inspired food truck that has the same name). Childhood friends Keith Canda, Chris Zamora and Anthony Cruzet are dishing out fire meals of Filipino, Mexican and Hawaiian eats, including fried chicken mac salad burritos, tempura salmon tacos and “KaluaQuiles” — mole-bathed chilaquiles with fresh mango sauce and kalua pork. They also organized San Jose’s first-ever lumpia eating contest and frequently collaborate with popular San Jose streetwear brands like Cukui, as well as a variety of local organizations — everything from low-rider bike clubs to tattoo shops


I swung by with my older brother and dad on a busy night earlier this summer to meet Mestizo’s crew and soak up some nostalgic vibes. It was the first time my family had been back to La Pulga together in decades.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


ALAN CHAZARO: When and how did you all launch your Mestizo food truck together?

CHRIS ZAMORA: We just started the truck this year. We wanted to come in and take it slow, but we’ve realized it’s all happening so quickly, especially this summer. It’s a culmination of our friendship over 20 years. We’ve always tried to find a project to work on together. We’re in three different industries as professionals, and we’ve never been able to officially collaborate on anything. This is that pinnacle for us. It’s not just getting together and partying like we did in our 20s. This has a deeper purpose.

ANTHONY CRUZET: We decided on a food truck because Keith already had a food truck from a business he was doing with his cousins in the past. He was thinking of selling it, and Chris looked at me and asked if we should just try to run our own food truck. It was literally that easy. Why not? It fell into place, and we’re figuring it out as we go.

a group of three friends stand in front of their new food truck in San Jose
Mestizo owners Chris Zamora (left), Anthony Cruzet (center) and Keith Canda (right) have known each other since grade school. (Alan Chazaro)

Talk to me about the name and concept of Mestizo. Where does that come from, and what does it represent for you all as mixed Filipinos?

ANTHONY: In coming up with our name, we discussed the different kinds of foods we could do. It’s fusion, mixed. The definition of “mestizo” is being mixed race. We want our own version of that. I’m literally mestizo — half Filipino, half Mexican. So it’s a representation of myself. That’s connected with the foods we want to do, being Filipino-rooted with other influences.

CHRIS: We also wanted flexibility with our menu. Some places only do Filipino food, but we wanted versatility to evolve our dishes over time. We’re all in different stages in our lives right now. Me and Ant just got back from Thailand, so we’re coming back with new flavors, new concepts. We want that evolutionary kind of experience to provide our community. Yes, we’re known for our fried-chicken-and-gravy burrito and our KaluaQuiles, but we can imagine new things, too.

KEITH CANDA: For me, Mestizo is a combination of a few things. All of us coming together is a mix of what we believe in, outside of food. We’re all mixed: We have different ideas, different goals, different careers. Then we put the food truck into play. Chris’s expertise in the kitchen. Ant in marketing and sales. And my little experience with running a food truck in the past. We stand by Mestizo because we believe in not just cultural fusion – Filipino, Hawaiian, Mexican – but in coming together as people with different skills.

Describe your food. What’s an example of a popular dish on your menu? What makes Mestizo unique?

CHRIS: The “Stay Rooted” burrito has fried chicken, which comes from one of us tasting chicken karaage in Japan. The mac salad in the burrito is from another one of us who took a trip to Hawaii. And then the gravy rice is from my memory of KFC gravy as a kid. There’s no rice at KFC, but I’ve always wanted to put that gravy on rice. So that’s all of us in one dish, literally. 

a fried chicken burrito with Hawaiian mac salad is on display
The “Stay Rooted” burrito, which features fried chicken, Hawaiian mac salad and gravy, inspired an accompanying T-shirt made in collaboration with Cukui Clothing. (Alan Chazaro)

From a menu-building standpoint, what I think is unique about us is that it’s really just all of us and our wives literally putting ideas together from scratch. One time, Ant sent us a video of an ube grilled cheese sandwich using ube jam. The text messages just started going off after that, and I showed my wife, who had some of her own thoughts to add, and we just combined all of that into our own idea. So the concepts just build from there within our own little community. It comes from our travels, our experiences, our families.

KEITH: Having a collaboration with Cukui with the Stay Rooted burrito adds another layer of community, too. We share a goal to bring the community together and collaborate, to give whatever we can offer. I work at a print shop that makes shirts for Cukui, and our businesses have grown up hand in hand because we’ve been printing for them for years. I just had the idea to offer a collaborative T-shirt as part of our menu. That’s the vibe we wanted. We bring those creative juices, our designs, the hype. Cukui has a super big following as it is. So having them to work with is huge.

And we [co-hosted] a lowrider bike anniversary event at History Park in San Jose with our T-shirts and food, so it’s a cross-pollination of businesses and representation. For the event, we partnered with Shiny Side Up from San Jose to design original shirts. That kind of community interaction is a staple for Mestizo.

a food truck displays their food menu, along with custom t-shirts and basketball shorts
Mestizo regularly collaborates with boutique streetwear makers around the Bay Area for custom apparel at their events. (Alan Chazaro)

CHRIS: It’s also with Cruiser Shop, a custom bicycle shop [in Campbell]. It’s like a car show for bicycles. With food and custom clothing.

You seem very rooted in San Jose and the South Bay. What’s your connection to the culture there?

CHRIS: We’re all born and raised in either Milpitas or San Jose. Ant and I went to kindergarten together, and we met Keith as teenagers. We all had Mustangs growing up and cruised together. That’s where it all kind of sparked from. I still have my ’73 Mach 1.

ANTHONY: Keith has a ’67. I got a ’70 fastback. 

KEITH: Mine has a 298 engine with a cam, nothing too crazy. 

CHRIS: Keith has a solid connection and foundation to San Jose and the brands and people here. I live in Milpitas now, but my cousins and I grew up in the Alum Rock area of East San Jose. That’s a whole thing to unravel in itself. There’s so much variety of cooking and food. Everyone has a favorite taco spot or torta spot, but there are so many to choose from that I think everyone finds their own way to stand out. It has influenced me and the way I cook and how we build menus by just taking the same simple ingredients to make our own magic. 

ANTHONY: Keith is Mr. San Jose.

What does “Mr. San Jose” have to say about the city’s food and culture?

KEITH: San Jose has a huge reputation for great Mexican food. But once you cross into Milpitas, there are a few great Filipino spots for such a small city. We wanted to bring that together since we are accustomed to growing up eating at Jaliscos and off of Alum Rock. Without growing up in San Jose and tasting the different spices and recipes of authentic immigrant foods, we wouldn’t be doing this. We’re coming together collectively and putting that all on one plate. We’re strongly rooted in that.

ANTHONY: The South Bay is such a big melting pot. Our palates were forced to get accustomed to all these different flavors. Indian food with Vietnamese food across the street and Chinese food next door. That’s the whole idea of Mestizo. We don’t want to be in a box. We want to open our menu to anything we grew up eating around the South Bay. Maybe we’ll do Filipino and Indian. We can do that. We know those flavors. Let’s see what we can create and who we might collaborate with for that.

What do you think of Filipino food in the Bay Area? Besides your own kitchens, where do you go for the best Filipino dishes and how does it compare to your experiences in the Philippines?

CHRIS: Around here, there’s Kalesa. That’s a sit-down. Max’s, even though it’s a global chain. But I think Filipino food is actually underrepresented overall. We’re seeing it a lot more now on food shows and the cooking channels of the world, but it’s still underrepresented. For a long time, it’s been represented to us as “turo turo.” That means “point point.” If you go to Goldilocks, you point at what you want to get. That’s what we were used to seeing growing up. But there’s a lot of space to explore where Filipino food is in the Bay Area right now and where it can be. 

a plate of lumpia with orange sauce on display
Pounds of “Mestizo Lumpia” were served in San Jose’s first ever lumpia eating contest earlier this year. (Alan Chazaro)

We just got back from the Philippines recently. But even there, it’s not always represented well because the food is so connected to the U.S. nowadays. Burgers, fried chicken, hot dogs. You’ll find more of that than traditional Filipino food sometimes. For middle- and upper-class people, they don’t go out to eat Filipino food. Over there, there are thousands of islands, so there’s a thousand ways to make adobo, lumpia, all of it, and people do that at home. There’s this one dish I love with fish balls on a wooden stick. It’s barbecued street food from the Philippines. We want to do that kind of stuff.

There’s also kamayan [a traditional Filipino method of eating with your bare hands]. Back in the day, during war times, the military was figuring out a way for generals and privates to share a table together. Typically, the tables were set up in ranks and separated. But they wanted a collaborative meal. So they laid out banana leaves on a big table and put rice and different proteins out for everyone to share. It’s called a “boodle fight,” a shared meal together. No utensils, just hands. It’s an interesting way of eating, since it’s very primal, but also offers space for a different kind of connection. That’s something I’d like to experiment with but not with the food truck. Our vision with that is to set up an event at a park and essentially put the banana leaves out, the decor, and do private events for small groups of friends. It could be weird if you do that with a complete stranger. 

That sounds amazing. You also recently hosted San Jose’s first lumpia eating contest. Is there any chance we’ll see that again?

CHRIS: I’m the one who wants to do it every week [laughs]. We want to bring it back. My idea is to do a “champions league” lumpia eating contest. Champions from different events, from different parts of San Jose. But that’s still a dream in the conceptual stage. You do the math and you’re like, man, eating that much lumpia? We can do that. But then you see it, and it’s actually kind of hard to do.

ANTHONY: We’ve talked about doing it again. But with more than just pork lumpia, since that’s limiting for some people’s diet. We want to try to do something with E-40’s Lumpia Company. That would be dope to do something bigger featuring their lumpia and hosted by us. That’s just me putting that out into the universe.


The Mestizo food truck pops up at various events around the South Bay. Their next appearance at La Pulga (1590 Berryessa Rd., San Jose) will be for the flea market’s Taco Night of Innovation on Fri., Aug. 18. For updates, follow Mestizo on Instagram.

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