It’s hard to miss Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos as you travel down East 22nd Street in midtown Tucson.

The mobile eatery is housed in a former school bus, painted bright pink. It sets up in the middle of a large dirt lot amid several car dealerships, between South Swan Road and South Columbus Boulevard.

Its interior has been custom altered to resemble a diner rather than your kids’ ride to middle school.

Long metal tables stretch along either wall, giving each customer a view of neighboring businesses and the traffic on 22nd.

The rear of the bus serves as the counter and kitchen, where 20-year-old Jackie Aguilar takes orders and her brother, Alex Quezada, 36, creates carnitas dishes using family recipes, born in Michoacán, Mexico, and passed down through generations.

The restaurant’s unusual look, both inside and out, make it a magnet for social media posts, which has helped to bring in customers, says Gisela Aguilar, a third sibling who runs the business with Quezada and Jackie Aguilar.

“People walk in and get excited,” Gisela said. “They start taking pictures and videos.”

The food bus has been operating in its current form for about a month, but has been an idea discussed by family members for more than a year.

During holiday gatherings, Quezada is usually the one tapped to man the grill.

His father, Audoro Gomez, taught him to cook carnitas when he was 8 years old. Over the years, Quezada has put his own twist on the family recipe, which is deeply rooted in the cooking traditions of Michoacán, where they are from.

Quezada’s carnitas have always been popular, said Victor Mejia, Gisela Aguilar’s husband, who helps with operations.

“I told him last Fourth of July that his carnitas is different than anybody else’s,” Mejia said. “ I said he should start his own business. He rolled with it.”

The Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos food bus is regularly stationed in a dirt lot at 4545 E. 22nd St., between South Swan Road and South Columbus Boulevard.

Quezada and his siblings, with support from father, Audoro and mother, Luz Gomez, launched their first food trailer in December, selling on the corner of West Grant Road and North Oracle Road.

The death of their father in March from cancer nearly ended their food truck venture, as the family sold the trailer and took time off to mourn.

They acquired the bus in May and relaunched in July, in part, to honor their dad.

“He was a hard-working man, who taught us principles and morals and always encouraged us,” Gisela Aguilar said. “Even when things were going wrong, he’d say, ‘Just give it time.’ ”

The decision to reopen has proven fruitful.

Quezada keeps busy as regulars and curious passersby take time from their day to stop in.

“It is a constant flow,” he said.

The menu includes burritos, tacos and quesadillas. Jars of salsa de aceite, a spicy mix of oil and red peppers, popular in Michoacán, sit throughout the dining area.

Mejia said people enjoy the fact they can eat inside on hot days.

The bus also has outdoor seating with awnings on either side of the vehicle.

“Once you come inside, you can stay for a while and chill,” Mejia said.

The ultimate goal is to one day turn the venture into a brick-and-mortar location, Mejia said, and have several food trucks posted throughout the city.

“We believe greater things are coming our way,” Gisela Aguilar said. “This is just the beginning.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@tucson.com or 573-4679.

Reporter

Gerald received his journalism degree from the University of Maryland. He has been with the Star for 16 years and has covered a variety of beats. Currently, he divides his time between the presentation desk and as a member of the digital team.