A lot of people I know have never tried eating at a Taco Truck. It makes me wonder, do they question the quality? Do they hate to eat standing up? Is the term ‘Roach Coach’ lurking in the recesses of their mind? Where have they been? Street food is all the rage. Hellooooo, don’t they watch the food channels?
If I consistently see a big line of people waiting to buy a taco for under $2.00, I say go for it. I have to admit that they all taste very similar. When you really think about it, if you put onions, cilantro and a tasty salsa on anything it will taste good. What it came down to was the quality of the meat, overall taste, the presentation and location of the truck – I’m talking ambience, folks.
I tried trucks in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. I emailed my friend Kimberly, (a junior Battleaxe at age 40) who had some good suggestions. The first was near Lake Merritt on a small corner at 15th and 1st Ave, called Tacos Mi Rancho. The best taco here was al Pastor, which is marinated pork in a red sauce, and its pretty tasty.
The next place was a very popular corner of 14th (International Blvd) and 22nd Ave. This is deep in the hood of Oakland. Here was a bright Orange truck right in the front of the restaurant. Taqueria Sinaloa. They had a big parking lot, tables outside and a fish taco truck in the same lot. It was very busy and lots of people were milling about. My tasting partner that day was the one and only Marga Gomez and she was definitely drawn to the Fish Taco Truck so we tried those first. By then I was ready to enhance my tasting with a thermos of margaritas I had made that morning, a good way to cleanse the palate and just plain feel good. This also made me feel braver about trying the lengua (tongue) tacos. The lengua was surprisingly tasty! But again the best was the Tacos al Pastor because it had a sweeter taste to it, maybe even a hint of nutmeg. The presentation was very nice, radishes, pickled carrots and jalapenos and fresh lime or lemon. The fish tacos were outstanding, definitely worth a try. Now the only problem I had with this place is that the truck was in front of the restaurant. The whole idea is to try the cuisine of the truck, not the restaurant. In some ways I think of it as cheating—Sorry!
The third stop that day was the corner of Foothill and Fruitvale at Tacos Mazatlan. It was a perfect location, right in front of a laundromat, across the street from a produce store. You could get a lot done at this corner. I was also ready to try other meat, like carnitas and cabeza (head). The carnitas were very tasty and the cabeza (which is mostly the cheeks) was outstanding. Thumbs up to this place!
If you know the way to San Jose and I do, it is worth the trip down to the South Bay. In a colorful strip starting from the corner of King and Story going East toward the foothills, to the intersection of Story and White, a distance of about two miles, you will encounter a Latino neighborhood with everything and I mean everything, Pollo Loco, Pollo Rico and El Gallo Giro. The Mi Pueblo grocery store is a store worth going into, especially the one at Story and King. This one has rotisserie chickens and every kind of meat grilling all day long. Ok, I’m getting carried away here, but I can’t help it, I love this store. So let’s get back on track, TACO TRUCKS – ELEANOR!
There are two trucks I tried on this strip. At La Perlalita, on the corner of Story and Kollmar, tacos were only $1.00, but they were acceptable even if a little greasy. The 2nd truck I tried was called El Paisa, on the corner of Story and McGinnis, just a block away from La Perlalita. The quality of the meat was by far the best and just came off the grill, the tacos had plenty of onions and cilantro and delicious green salsa.
I ask myself, will San Francisco have a chance? El Tonayense, in front of Best Buy on Harrison at 14th is a very colorful truck. I would recommend this truck for catering. They charge a minimum of $650. Its always crowded, especially at lunch. Again, the usual, tacos al pastor and I also tried pollo asado. The tacos al pastor were the best tasting as far as flavor, but I thought they were too greasy, my tortillas got wilted and they were hard to pick up to eat. Next I tried Tacos San Buena, on 16th and Shotwell and was disappointed in the quality of the meat. They were chintzy on the cilantro and onions as well.
Which are the best? I liked the cleaner tasting ones in San Jose that really tasted like BBQ meat, very fresh and right off the grill with some salsa but not smothered in it. My second best were the fish tacos from the truck at 22nd and 14th in Oakland, Taqueria Sinaloa.
Bon Appetit folks!