SWANTON – Lunchtime might not be the same now that a taste of the West Coast has been added to the Pump ‘N Munch menu.
Swanton now has tacos.
“We don’t have tacos where it can be quick,” said Kelly Clayton, co-owner of Pump ‘N Munch. “That way they can come in and have a quick taco during their lunch break without waiting… They’re hot, quick, and fresh.”
These tacos, served at the little gas station at the end of Canada Street, are not your ordinary tacos. Co-owner Steve Martin is frying a taco-shaped whole-flour tortilla until the outside is crisp and golden and the inside is warm and soft. Along with the seasoned beef in each of the tacos, Martin adds lettuce, tomato, cheese, hot sauce, sour cream, beans and hot peppers – just the way the customer likes it. The tacos are served hot and fresh and are about the size of a small sandwich.
On December 28, Martin and Clayton decided to launch Pump ‘N Munch’s first Taco Tuesday to test their beloved homemade recipes on the Swanton stage.
While Martin is renowned among family and friends for their homemade tacos, this was the first time the couple offered them to the wider community as their new staple meal.
And the crowd went mad: Martin said the day was filled with customers who often returned the next day to see if tacos were somehow on the menu. People started pre-ordering tacos before hours and buying lunches for each other in the spirit of the holiday season.
Thanks to high demand, West Coast and Southwest inspired items will gradually become a permanent part of the Pump ‘N Munch menu.
“Now it’s everyday tacos,” Martin said. “We had so many people come over for tacos that we couldn’t say no. “
Starting small with just beef tacos, Martin said the offerings would expand to include chicken, pork, steak and other entrees like burritos and empanadas. Soon Martin said he hopes to deliver a “California-style” carne asada burrito, which is topped with a pile of fries.
“We’re trying to find what a community doesn’t have,” Martin said. “If I took poutine to the West Coast, they’d go crazy. “
A community hub
In search of a slower lifestyle, Martin left his hometown 17 years ago and settled in northern Vermont. A year and a half ago he bought the small gas station with the intention of refurbishing it for the community.
“I thought he was crazy,” Clayton said. “Like, totally crazy… We never dip our toes in water on anything. We just jump in.
Clayton and Martin, originally from San Diego, opened the Pump ‘N Munch convenience store in 2018. 2 Canada St’s mom-and-pop boutique sells everything from all-day breakfasts to fried cauliflower florets, wings, burgers and tater tot casserole. It’s the standard lunch spot with a local, small town feel without the vibe of a fast food chain.
Martin said he has hosted Taco Tuesday at his home for years and has since developed a reputation for his mouthwatering creations. Bringing his tacos further into the community, he said, was a childhood dream come true. The success of the restaurant and store would depend on them, and Clayton and Martin agreed their neighbors never failed to step up.
“They are super loyal,” Clayton said. “Whenever we go through downturns in business or if we sometimes have a hard time, they come back. All the time. They want to see us succeed.
it works in the family
“Others eat to live, I live to eat,” Martin said. “And my mom can do anything … that’s where I learned to marinate and really complete recipes.”
Alongside his mother, Martin said he gleaned cooking skills and recipes from his home kitchen and took his methods and equipment with him to Swanton when he moved.
While Martin grew up in California, Clayton finds her roots in New Jersey, where she grew up in a large Italian and Irish family. Childhood memories included big family dinners on Sundays and home-cooked comfort foods like “gravy” or New Jersey red sauce.
“We are really lucky,” Clayton said. “Our two mothers know how to cook. “
The culinary gifts passed down from their mothers made them popular with their friends, and although neither are professionally trained, the two cooks pride themselves on their long history of cooking for their community.
“I can make you a nasty pot of gravy,” Clayton said. “And meatballs like nobody’s business.”