Restau­rant Re­view Taco truckin’ all over town

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

On and off for the past year and a half, I’ve tagged along with a group of friends whose heroic hobby is to lo­cate and sam­ple goods from ev­ery taco truck in Santa Fe. The early mis­sions took place on that long com­mer­cial stretch of Air­port Road be­tween Cer­ril­los Road and the Santa Fe Coun­try Club — the main artery through the neigh­bor­hood called Lit­tle Chi­huahua, where there are usu­ally four or five trucks do­ing busi­ness at any given time.

The first one we hit was a small white ram­shackle trailer on a blank lot just east of the Kagyu Shen­pen Kunchab Ti­betan Bud­dhist Cen­ter. A hand-painted sign on the front said Ta­que­ría La Ha­cienda, and there were var­i­ous chaotic signs list­ing the menu items. I knew some of the terms (car­ni­tas tacos, bur­rito con pollo), but many were un­fa­mil­iar, like

ma­chi­tos, buche, and elote en vaso (in­tes­tine, stom­ach, and “corn in a cup,” re­spec­tively). I or­dered carne asada tacos.

La Ha­cienda wasn’t much to look at, but it was great, and it’s been con­sis­tent ev­ery time I’ve gone back. My plate con­sisted of four art­fully ar­ranged tacos that were never bet­tered by those from other trucks that I went to in the fol­low­ing weeks: tasty lit­tle pack­ets made us­ing warm, floppy corn tor­tillas, spicy chunks of beef, chopped white onion, cilantro, avocado, and tomato, with lime, tomatillo sauce, and shred­ded cab­bage on the side.

We roamed all over the city dur­ing Taco Quest, eat­ing at a few big, shiny trucks that weren’t es­pe­cially good and at some dinky, scruffy ones that were sur­pris­ingly strong. The big­gest clus­ter was and still is on Air­port Road, but you’ll also find trucks scat­tered along the length of Cer­ril­los and on or near Siler Road, St. Michael’s Drive, St. Fran­cis Drive, Cor­dova Road, Rodeo Road, and Old Santa Fe Trail. The open­ing of Meow Wolf, on Ru­fina Cir­cle, has cre­ated a new hub for trucks that is spic­ing up that part of town.

Gen­er­ally, the trucks come in two styles. First, there are tra­di­tional oper­a­tions, like La Ha­cienda and Ta­que­ría Argelia, that look and feel like they rolled straight in from the streets of Mex­ico. The main choices there tend to be tacos (al­ways made with soft tor­tillas), bur­ri­tos, tor­tas, and que­sadil­las. You’ll see long lists of meat, poul­try, and seafood fill­ings, in­clud­ing some that are more fa­mil­iar (asada, al pas­tor, car­ni­tas, bar­ba­coa) and some that are less so, such as lengua (tongue) and trip­i­tas (tripe). Prices vary, but you’ll typ­i­cally pay around $8 for four tacos.

The other style of truck has one foot in the world of mod­ern ur­ban restau­rants. A good ex­am­ple is El Sa­bor Span­ish Tapas y Másss, which sits in the empty lot across from Kaune’s, on Old Santa Fe Trail. On a re­cent visit, I en­joyed an order of fish tacos that came with gen­er­ous pieces of fresh-tast­ing white fish, avocado, cab­bage slaw, lime juice, cilantro, and tomato. But there are un­ex­pected of­fer­ings, too, in­clud­ing chicken chipo­tle tapas and flash-fried ar­ti­chokes. The flash-fried avocado I tried was crispy and ter­rific. It was topped with chopped to­ma­toes, red onion, cilantro, a creamy lime-yo­gurt sauce, and drips of bal­samic re­duc­tion; it would work as an ap­pe­tizer at the best restau­rants in town.

An­other win­ner is Bon­sai Asian Tacos, which used to be on Cer­ril­los Road, in front of Pawn City, but is now parked in a lot on St. Fran­cis Drive, near the in­ter­sec­tion with San Ma­teo. Bon­sai is a good choice for veg­e­tar­i­ans — in ad­di­tion to tacos, they of­fer saucy, spicy stir-fries that use healthy in­gre­di­ents like mixed veg­eta­bles, brown rice, rice noo­dles, and quinoa. I tried the Korean pulled pork slid­ers: three warm, soft buns piled with pork, slaw, chopped kale, and a spicy red sauce. They were out­stand­ing and cost just $6 — an amaz­ing deal. On Cor­dova Road, near the in­ter­sec­tion with St. Fran­cis Drive, you’ll find what may be Santa Fe’s most pop­u­lar taco truck, El Chile Tore­ado, which serves break­fast and lunch bur­ri­tos, along with tacos and que­sadil­las in nearly a dozen vari­a­tions in­volv­ing beef, pork, chicken, and veg­eta­bles. I love their car­ni­tas, but I’m less sold on their sig­na­ture hot dog, the Mr. Pol­ish, which is so heav­ily piled with meat, beans, and cheese that I found it over­whelm­ing.

On or near Cer­ril­los Road, three other trucks worth check­ing out are El Rin­concito del Sa­bor, which is on Cer­ril­los Road next to the Cac­tus Cen­tro busi­ness cen­ter; Ta­que­ría Gra­cias Madre, which sits in the Meow Wolf park­ing lot; and Santa Fe Kitchen, which is where Bon­sai Asian Tacos used to be over at Pawn City. Santa Fe Kitchen is new, and ev­ery­thing I’ve tried there has been very good, in­clud­ing fish tacos, chicken and cheese que­sadil­las, and a sand­wich called pam­bazo de asada, a win­ning com­bi­na­tion of grilled beef, onion, white cheese, cilantro, cab­bage, tomato, avocado, pota­toes, chorizo, and sour cream. I’ll keep test­ing it all sum­mer, but for now this place has edged out La Ha­cienda as my new num­ber one.

We roamed all over the city dur­ing Taco Quest, eat­ing at a few big, shiny trucks that weren’t es­pe­cially good and at some dinky, scruffy ones that were sur­pris­ingly strong.

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