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A Savory Slice of History at Fuel City

by Steven Doyle

The Cockrell family moved to the Dallas area in 1847 and purchased the part of John Neely Bryan’s homestead that included the Dallas town site and Trinity River ferry. Eventually the family opened a sawmill, lumberyard, gristmill and freighting business. The land they owned spread far on the rolling banks of the Trinity making up the family’s ranch, however, now much of that legend has been forgotten.

Today you may once again spot cattle roaming proudly where they once grazed, but now a skyline of concrete and steel are the backdrop where once only windmills and oil pumps could be seen.  

In 1998 entrepreneur John Benda purchased a tract of land that was part of the Cockrell family ranch. Instead of sawmills and ferries Benda sells more fuel, beer and tacos than any other in the Dallas area at his glitzy truck stop, Fuel City.

Born and raised in Dallas, John Benda has taken on many jobs including life guard, substitute teacher, matchbook advertising and life insurance sales. In 1980 Benda purchased his first grocery store in Hutchins and eventually sold only to trade up to larger centers.

Today Benda runs Fuel City located on Riverfront Boulevard just south of the Dallas Convention Center. The unusual eight acre truck stop has since become known for a great place to purchase beer, get a car wash, a quirky swimming pool, a grazing herd of longhorn cattle, a few donkeys, an oil pump, and of course legendary tacos.

Perhaps it was the tacos that put Fuel City on the map. The truck stop offers street tacos 24-hours a day and has been recognized by every media outlet in Dallas as making a fine version. You will find a line of people waiting for an order almost any time of the day or night, and in the wee hours of the morning several policemen can be found directing traffic into the mega-complex.

Benda gave us a tour of the facility, and of course was quick to point out interesting features including the massive walk-in refrigeration unit that held enough beer to quench the thirst of most Texans during a busy Texas-OU game weekend, but when we walked out onto the pasture and hopped the fence where the cattle grazed he seemed most happy.

Pointing to the pair of donkeys that milled between the longhorns we spotted the new-born donkey following its mother. “I wanted to show everyone what the land looked like before it became the metropolis it is today. This is how it was in 1860,” Benda said as he waved to the pasture dotted with giant patches of cactus.

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