Food & Drink

Three new Mexican eateries arrive in the metro-east. Here’s where you can find them.

Valle Taco Express will open soon in Swansea

Valle Taco Express is coming to Swansea soon. Here's what you need to know.
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Valle Taco Express is coming to Swansea soon. Here's what you need to know.

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 Tex-Mex 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.

It started with a food truck in the metro-east

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 look at the Valley taco from Truckeria Del Valle Food. Provided

“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 217-330-0328.

“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.”

Express Mexican restaurant opens at Scott Air Force Base

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.

A look at Casa Maria Express at Scott Air Force Base. Provided

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.

Two new restaurants opened in August and more eateries are expected in the area this fall.

Rio Grande in Fairview Heights opening soon

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.

Cara Anthony: 618-239-2471.