Amuse-bouche Molly Boyle re­views food truck parks

FOOD TRUCK PARKS

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - The New Mex­i­can Molly Boyle

Your pal wants a hot dog, but you’ve got your heart set on some fish tacos. And then your other friend — the one you like to com­pare to Donny from The Big Le­bowski, be­cause he’s al­ways out of his el­e­ment — pipes up from the back­seat that he’s in the mood for a break­fast bur­rito, even though it’s past noon. Where do you go for lunch?

At a cou­ple of fledg­ling food truck parks in town, you can choose your own ad­ven­ture. Last year, both the park­ing lot at Meow Wolf and the va­cant spit of land across from Kaune’s Neigh­bor­hood Mar­ket be­gan play­ing host to two or more mo­bile ven­dors at a time, al­low­ing hun­gry passersby to sam­ple a va­ri­ety of quick and cheap snacks on the go. Our out­door food courts may have a ways to go be­fore they’re on the level of other cities’ gourmet play­ing fields, like the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery and its peren­ni­ally In­sta­grammable con­coc­tions. But with this summer’s ar­rival of a few promis­ing new­com­ers, there are def­i­nitely more ex­cit­ing al fresco eats than ever to be had in Santa Fe.

The al­ways-packed Meow Wolf park­ing lot is home to the most buz­zwor­thy fresh­men on the scene: Trin­ity Kitchen, which be­gan serv­ing up im­pos­si­bly de­li­cious Ca­jun fare in late May. The art col­lec­tive’s first of­fi­cially spon­sored mo­bile eatery is run by two child­hood friends from Shreve­port, and in Louisiana terms, these dudes know how to pass a good time. Everything we’ve sam­pled here has been stand­out. The kicky and ten­der craw­fish étouf­fée ben­e­fits from the kitchen’s slow-sweated name­sake trin­ity (onions, bell pep­pers, cel­ery) in a blond roux over fluffy rice. The fried oys­ter po’boy is a marvel of great big Gulf bi­valves, cream­ily redo­lent of the sea and cov­ered in a corn­meal crust, on squishy French bread with arugula and wa­ter­melon radishes and ac­com­pa­nied by a tasty tan­gle of curly fries. The truck’s sig­na­ture spicy ré­moulade, which is at first mouth-wa­ter­ing and then nose-wa­ter­ing, comes on most sand­wiches as well as along­side the mag­nif­i­cent craw­fish-tail beignets, sa­vory mud­bug and veg­gie hush­pup­pies that could put to shame this town’s finest and most cre­ative kitchens. With spe­cials fea­tur­ing fresh in­gre­di­ents — one day, I had just missed out on a sold-out salad of arugula, goat-cheese stuffed squash blos­soms, and pis­ta­chios — it’s safe to say that with this truck in town, we’ll be hav­ing fun all summer long.

An­other Meow Wolf sta­ple, the fam­ily-owned Ta­que­ria Gra­cias Madre, seems to have a per­pet­ual line of cus­tomers thanks to its de­pend­ably good reper­toire of tacos, tor­tas, burg­ers, and bur­ri­tos pre­pared by hus­band and wife En­rique Salas and Car­men Martinez. The truck also boasts a size­able kids’ menu and veg­e­tar­ian-friendly fare like av­o­cado tacos with quinoa and cal­abac­i­tas. One busy week­day, we sam­pled the al pas­tor and car­ni­tas tacos, each one piled high with green leaf let­tuce, cilantro, and lime, and fin­ished with the truck’s zingy tomatillo salsa. The car­ni­tas were salty and slightly crisp, the softer morsels of chilerubbed al pas­tor stud­ded with de­lec­ta­ble bits of pineap­ple. Across the way, Ke­bab Car­a­van’s beef and chicken skew­ers, falafel, and egg­plant are avail­able in a wrap with cab­bage, toma­toes, and tzatziki

or on a plate with rice and salad. We opted for the pa­prika-mar­i­nated grilled egg­plant wrap, which added a lo­cal touch, us­ing a tor­tilla in­stead of a pita. A brac­ing cold brew cof­fee from the SoCal Mo­bile Café capped a mem­o­rable lunch hour.

The pic­nic-ta­ble seat­ing at Meow Wolf, which could ben­e­fit from the shade of sev­eral more um­brel­las, of­ten fea­tures a spir­ited cross-sec­tion of the art in­stal­la­tion’s vis­i­tors — whiny kids bab­bling to their guardians about re­frig­er­a­tor por­tals, lovesick teenagers glued to one an­other’s lip pierc­ings, and food-seek­ing flâneuses like me. One day, two twenty-some­things struck up a con­ver­sa­tion by com­par­ing the fla­vors of their snow cones (pink lemon sour and cherry). Soon they were shar­ing a ta­ble, deep in a dis­cus­sion about grad school, Goya, and be­ing born in 1993. Tak­ing a sug­ges­tion from one of them, who said she worked in­side, I walked over to Rain­bow Snow and re­quested the so­phis­ti­cated combo of co­conut and French vanilla. The snow cone smelled like ex­pen­sive sun­screen and tasted like summer.

Over on the south­west cor­ner of Old Santa Fe Trail and Paseo de Per­alta, the food-truck cus­tomers are mainly lo­cals on their lunch breaks. Af­ter a cou­ple postal work­ers pulled their trucks ad­ja­cent to mine one af­ter­noon, we all con­vened at the shaded pic­nic ta­bles out­side Ger­ardo’s An­dale!, a mo­bile eatery started last fall by Ger­ardo Ro­driguez, who cooked at Santa Fe Bak­ing Co. for 22 years, and his wife Theresa. The cou­ple serve lov­ingly pre­pared tra­di­tional Mex­i­can and Amer­i­can items like tacos, bur­ri­tos, tor­tas, hot dogs, and burg­ers. At Theresa’s en­thu­si­as­tic sug­ges­tion, I or­dered the carne asada torta, a well-com­posed strata of ro­bust grilled steak and shred­ded let­tuce, silk­ily sauced with mayo and per­fectly ripe av­o­cado nes­tled in a soft tel­era bun. The sand­wich was ac­com­pa­nied by a re­spectable mound of beer­bat­tered french fries.

On an early morn­ing re­turn visit, Ger­ardo’s hefty hand­held break­fast bur­rito proved a for­mi­da­ble con­tender in a town that takes this menu item very se­ri­ously. It was de­liv­ered pip­ing hot from the truck’s grill, com­plete with but­tery eggs, pota­toes, green chile, nicely melted ched­dar cheese, and pi­quant sausage. An­other break­fast bur­rito next door at the new Santa Fa­mous Street Eats was a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal al­to­gether — over­stuffed to the point of ne­ces­si­tat­ing a knife and fork and sauced with a right­eous red chile, it fea­tured bulky slices of smoky and fatty ba­con.

El Sa­bor Span­ish Tapas y Másss is the O.G. of the three trucks parked on Old Santa Fe Trail, hav­ing cel­e­brated its one-year an­niver­sary in May. Owner­op­er­a­tor Ever Paz, for­merly head chef at El Farol, of­fers a lengthy menu that com­bines burg­ers, sand­wiches, and Mex­i­can food items with high­erend seafood spe­cials and tapas. A suite of the cod tacos was sim­ply pre­pared, fresh, and fill­ing, the flaky white fish meld­ing with warm tor­tilla, lime juice, and large av­o­cado slices un­der a pile of sliv­ered cab­bage. I paired these with a cus­tomer fa­vorite, the flash-fried al­ca­chofas — meaty Parme­san-en­crusted ar­ti­chokes un­der a med­ley of diced toma­toes, Kala­mata olives, and capers, topped with an ex­pert driz­zle of bal­samic vine­gar.

One il­lus­tri­ous alum­nus of the park­ing lot on Old Santa Fe Trail bears a spe­cial men­tion. Chef En­rique Guer­rero, who put his brightor­ange Bang Bite Fill­ing Sta­tion truck on hia­tus to open the sparkling new it­er­a­tion of El Nido in Te­suque last fall, has brought Bang Bite back in a new lo­ca­tion this summer. Now sit­u­ated on West Wa­ter Street in an am­ple park­ing lot with pic­nic ta­bles be­hind Bouche Bistro, Guer­rero is su­per­vis­ing a line-up of gourmet burg­ers, sand­wiches, and spe­cials that’s as good as ever. Bang Bite also of­fers micheladas made with Bloody Maria mix and a ro­tat­ing cast of lo­cal draft beers, as well as Santa Fe Brew­ing Com­pany canned beers to stay or go. I’m par­tic­u­larly taken with the Who You Call­ing Chicken, a tex­tu­ral de­light of crunchy fried chicken, snappy “trailer-made” pick­les, spicy honey sauce, and crisp cole slaw on a floury bun that makes this pi­o­neer­ing lone-wolf food truck a des­ti­na­tion all its own.

I walked over to Rain­bow Snow and re­quested the so­phis­ti­cated combo of co­conut and French vanilla. It smelled like ex­pen­sive sun­screen and tasted like summer.

Al­ca­chofas (fried ar­ti­chokes) at El Sa­bor Span­ish Tapas y Másss Al pas­tor and car­ni­tas tacos from Ta­que­ria Gra­cias Madre

Carne asada torta from Ger­ardo’s An­dale!

Trin­ity Kitchen’s craw­fish beignets and fried oys­ter po’boy

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