Restaurant Review Taco truckin’ all over town
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.