Five years ago, Blaine Baggao traded his motorcycle for a food truck.
Now he is motionless.
The owner of Adobo, a Filipino and Mexican food truck, opened a physical restaurant at 3109 Federal Blvd. in West Highland last month.
“I realized I was outselling most food trucks, and I was a one-man team that had people coming to help me out,” Baggao said. “And after coming to the conclusion that I wouldn’t find another person like me who would put in all that time and energy, I decided that another food truck wasn’t the way to go.”
Baggao launched Adobo in 2017, serving dishes inspired by her Filipina grandmother, such as chicken adobo and lumpia, as well as entrees like tacos and green chili fries. The restaurant on Federal has all of that and more, including rice bowls, salads, and burritos.
Adobo also took over the kitchen from First Draft Taproom & Kitchen in RiNo in 2020 and is a local supplier at Meow Wolf. Baggao said Adobo made $156,000 in revenue in 2019, and $600,000 and $2.1 million, respectively, in 2020 and 2021.
Baggao started making 40 pounds of adobo chicken every week for his food truck, and said he now makes 350 pounds twice a week. That’s not counting the 5,000 pounds of adobo chicken he said he cooked for Meow Wolf in the past three months.
Adobo’s food truck is now only used for weddings and corporate events. The concept was also featured in a Netflix episode of “Fresh, Fried & Crispy” last year.
“I just passed everyone,” Baggao said. “I slept 20 hours a week. I never slept on a Sunday and committed suicide, even developing heart palpitations. There was no way I would fail because I made sure of it.
Baggao had an unusual start to his career in the food industry.
Before that, he worked at Vanguard in Scottsdale, making even more money for high net worth individuals. But at the age of 27, he suffers from a serious head trauma following a motorcycle accident.
After that, he struggled to communicate with people and turned to food for self-expression.
“Before, I was able to do the standard deviation of portfolios in my head, but I couldn’t even remember a complete sentence that I had just read,” Baggao said. “Instead, I could make a taco or make a dish and that would represent how I felt.”
Baggao returned to the financial industry after moving to Denver in 2014 despite his motorcycle accident. But he went through a messy divorce in 2016 and ended up losing custody of his now 6-year-old daughter.
“I was a very selfish, numbers-oriented guy, worried about how much money people make and what kind of car you drive,” Baggao said. “But my ego was fundamentally shattered, and I had no reason to be selfish anymore.”
Baggao decided to quit his six-figure job and focus on what he loves, as he had already lost his daughter and mother, who died in 2004.
He started Adobo as a tribute to his late mother, who worked long days as a cardiologist and diagnostician, had her own lab, and always came home to cook dinner for her children.
“She used to say she worked so hard her hair hurt, but she would always come home and be the mother and father,” he said. “She is the inspiration behind my work ethic and the reason I wanted to start my own business.”
Baggao bought Adobo’s food truck in 2017 from Denver Restaurant Equipment Corp., which was sued by Attorney General Phil Weiser in December last year, claiming the company had been selling food trucks without a dealer license since at least 2015. The case has since been dismissed.
“I cashed in my 401K, sold everything I had, but still didn’t have enough, so a friend of mine from my hometown helped out with the rest of the investment,” Baggao said. “I had no other options.”
Just as the food truck was an investment in his future, the restaurant is an investment in his daughter, to whom he hopes to pass his business on. Baggao signed a five-year lease for his new 5,000-square-foot restaurant on Federal in September, but he’s ultimately considering buying the property.
“This corner isn’t going anywhere,” Baggao said. “Speer and Federal will only get busier. I can’t get $3 million right now, but I can get a lease with first right of refusal to lease it back or buy it, as long as I don’t mess this up. You might imagine that this whole corner is a skyscraper, and someone would be willing to pay top dollar for it.
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