Denver Food Truck The Captain Specializes in Fried Sushi and Tacos | Westword
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Aye Aye! The Captain Food Truck Specializes in Fried Sushi, Tacos and Birria Pizza

Gibran Villarreal launched the business in 2019 and now runs four mobile food concepts and operates the kitchen at El Patio on Market Street.
Blackbeard, a fried sushi roll stuffed with cream cheese, cucumber and imitation crab.
Blackbeard, a fried sushi roll stuffed with cream cheese, cucumber and imitation crab. The Captain
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Before becoming a food truck owner in Denver, Gibran Villarreal grew up in Rosarito, on the coast of Mexico's Baja peninsula. "My grandma and grandpa from my mother's side had two restaurants over there, and my dad's side had a restaurant, too. So I've been involved with this business since I was six years old," he says.

Eventually, he opened a restaurant of his own in Rosarito called Rock and Roll Sushi. "We used to do sushi and rock bands — tributes to Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and all that kind of music. ... I wanted it to be only a bar — no food and no stress — but my partner wanted to do sushi, so we picked up sushi recipes from the area and combined them with our own. We kind of did our own thing, and it worked out really well."

He ran the business for seven years, but "it got to be too much work. I got old and tired. I didn't want to go to sleep at four or five in the morning anymore," he recalls, so he decided to sell the eatery.

An unexpected offer to help open a food truck brought Villarreal to Colorado for the first time. "I worked for that guy for about eight months, and after that, I went back to Rosarito," he says. "Then somebody else called me to come back and open a restaurant, but I ended up selling restaurant equipment for five years" before deciding to follow his passion for cooking.
click to enlarge a food truck
The Captain serves tacos and sushi.
Chris Byard
"I love to cook and work events, but the idea to start a food truck mostly came from the fact that my father-in-law is a great cook," Villarreal explains. "He was getting older, and I didn't want him to continue working all these different jobs, so I said, 'Hey, let's open a business, and you can help.' That's where the name "The Captain" came into play. We call him 'the captain' and just decided that's what we should call the truck."

Villarreal officially launched his first food truck in 2019, focusing on his specialties: tacos and sushi. In the five years since, he has tirelessly worked to expand, seizing new business opportunities. "Right now, I have two taco and sushi trucks with the same menu," he says. "I have a taco trailer that goes anywhere and everywhere, and I have a Sprinter van that's called What's Your Lunch where we can make just about anything."

In addition to overseeing his four mobile food businesses, his team also runs the kitchen at El Patio, one of the concepts operated by Handsome Boys Hospitality at 1949 Market Street. "I work 24/7, man. I manage every part of the business, so I have to work my ass off. Hopefully, I will retire at 45. That's what I'm trying to do," Villarreal says.

While he personally loves fresh sushi made with raw fish, his food truck specializes in fried sushi. "I started out doing fresh sushi, but that was one of the dishes I had to cut because people were scared about raw sushi," he says. "I still do fresh sushi for catering and special occasions if clients ask for it, but on our regular food truck menu, everything is cooked."

The most popular sushi item is the Blackbeard, "which is practically the California roll topped with imitation crab," he notes. "Everybody knows it. It's simple and easy, but super delicious. We fry it, but if you don't want it fried, we can do it non-fried."
a hand picked up a piece of birria pizza
The quesadilla-like birria pizza from The Captain.
The Captain
The Captain also serves classic street tacos such as carnitas, shrimp and beef, as well as a birria pizza — think quesadilla, but better.

Even though the work is demanding, he enjoys meeting new people and hearing new stories every day. "When we came here, they said there is no American Dream. But there is an American Dream if you fight for it and if you work for it," Villarreal concludes.

For a taste of this Mexican fare, visit thecaptainsreef.com for the truck's full schedule. 
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