Tacos and Diesel

Fuel City stretches tacos-and-gas empire to sprawling Mesquite plot

Fuel City stretches tacos-and-gas empire to sprawling Mesquite plot

Fuel City, tacos
Fuel City tacos are coming to Mesquite in summer 2015. Fuel City/Facebook
Fuel City elotes
Mesquite citizens, get ready for elotes. Photo courtesy of Fuel City
Fuel City, tacos
Fuel City elotes

Famed gas station-taqueria Fuel City is heading to Mesquite. Owner John Benda will open a third location of the popular travel center, aka "The Ranch in downtown Dallas," there in summer 2015.

The location at 2175 South Town East Blvd., at the corner of Samuel Boulevard, sits on 17 acres right off Highway 80; that's more than twice the size of the Dallas location's eight acres. It will be open 24 hours, with easy access to 30 and 635. It will feature not only tacos but also an outlet of the Original Fried Pie Shop, along with 32 gas pumps, including 24 regular gas and eight diesel stations for trucks.

"Mesquite of all places. There was a void we saw in Mesquite, Texas, and found this land," Benda says. There are exacting requirements for a Fuel City, he says.

 "I like the idea of building a ranch and showing what Mesquite looked like," says Fuel City owner John Benda.

"We need 10 to 20 acres," he says. "A normal store is on one acre. But we like to have the animals out back and plenty of spacing. It's so hard to find land unless you go outside the loop. I like the idea of building a ranch and showing what Mesquite looked like."

Although Fuel City has become famous for its tacos, diesel gas sales are key to its survival. The Mesquite branch is located near Quality Intermodal, a major transportation depot.

"It's where they bring in all the cars for the Metroplex," Benda says. "They come in on a rail car. It's where they ship cargo in on rail and put it on trucks and take it to their destination. If you drive a new car in Dallas, it most likely came in there."

Benda, who's looking for still more locations, opened a branch in Lufkin in 2012. The original opened in 1999 at the I-30/I-35 intersection on the Trinity River bank — decades before the Trinity River became the apple of everyone's eye. It's one of the most popular travel centers in Texas, with a car wash, tacos and elotes, five Texas longhorns, a swimming pool, oil derrick, windmill, drive-through beer barn, live karaoke, and native Texas trees and cactus.

"I do get lots of offers, but I would never sell it," Benda says. "Most people didn't think it would work when I built it 15 years ago. Nothing had ever been there since the Indians owned it. It was for sale for 30 years. It had no sewer or access. Building it was quite a process. And then once it was open, I was so afraid that nobody would come that I didn't come for two weeks."

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