Mukja is a family-owned food truck in Denver that specializes in Korean cheese dogs
“I worked in accounting for twelve years. I crunched numbers all day and I’m an introvert. So I just kept telling my husband, “This is not for me, this is not for me. To grow, I need more than just an office job,” explains Julie Rivera, owner of Mukja Food Truck, which specializes in cheese dogs, a Korean street food staple. When Rivera began to consider life outside of accounting, she recalls conversations with her daughter, Kayla Makowski, who was in high school at the time. “We would talk about having food trucks or doing street food, because we don’t really have a lot of that in Denver,” Rivera says.
A native of Korea, Rivera has fond memories stemming from childhood home cooking. “My family, our love language is eating, feeding people and coming together. I grew up in a household with lots of aunties, my grandmother, my mother, and we all cooked,” she explains.
Although food played a central role in Rivera’s upbringing, she is quick to admit that before starting Mukja, she barely worked in the hospitality industry. “I had no experience in the restaurant business. I’ve never even served in a restaurant. I was a hostess when I was sixteen. So I didn’t know what I was doing,” she says.
Although she lacked professional experience, she traveled frequently, tasting her way through many kitchens, which was inspiring as her dream of starting a food truck moved closer and closer to reality. “We were really expanding our flavor … We were traveling to the East Coast, the West Coast, and we were like, we have to bring this back to Denver.” She soon zeroed in on the ideal of highlighting her Korean roots and focusing on fun street food— the types of meals her children liked to eat.
Shortly before Kayla graduates from college with an accounting degree, Rivera buys a used truck and enlists her daughter’s help. “We unpacked the entire truck ourselves. We went and scrubbed the truck every day to get it ready,” Rivera recalled. As Kayla neared college graduation, she had a more flexible schedule and the freedom to help out, and the two officially launched Mukja — which means “Let’s Eat” in Korean — in September 2019.
Although the pandemic caused disruption in the first year of operation, the business recovered quickly. “We came to Long Table Brewhouse our first day and just blew it up from there,” says Rivera.
Mukya gained another team member when Rivera’s son, James Makowski, returned home from Pueblo. As the truck enters its third year of operation, Rivera finds herself happier than she ever imagined. “I can manage it with my kids. I think that’s the funniest thing. And we have to be creative,” she says. “It’s just the three of us and my husband. You’ll see my husband now and then, but he works nine to five.’
As a true family operation, Mukja shines with love and creativity through fun dishes. “We’re known for the cheese dogs, and that’s what everyone comes in and tries. But our most popular dish is bibimbap, which is actually a traditional Korean dish that we have,” notes Rivera.
Mukja also serves Wonton Nachos – a stack of crispy wonton shells with cheese sauce, lettuce and onion salad, topped with spicy aioli, cotija cheese, sesame seeds and a choice of protein. “This is our synthesis,” Rivera says of the dish. “My husband is Latino and he’s always like, ‘Make nachos, make nachos,’ and this was our first fusion dish.”
The truck also gets creative with its cheese dogs, offering a spin on the elote as well as the classic and the jalapeño popper variety.
If you want to be treated like family while digging into fun bites served with big smiles, this is the truck to find. To find Mukja, follow him on Facebook or Instagram, where his schedule is posted weekly every Monday.