Amuse-bouche

Air­port Road food trucks

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

Santa Fe’s South­side is, in some ways, a culinary desert — you’ll find the oc­ca­sional hid­den gem, but oth­er­wise it’s the land of chain restau­rants. If you’re in that area and you’re hun­gry, you might con­sider the myr­iad Mex­i­can food trucks that you pass as you cruise down Air­port Road — they’re an es­pe­cially tempt­ing op­tion.

Ex­plor­ing th­ese trucks can be tricky. The menus of­ten don’t have clearly marked prices. Seat­ing is usu­ally limited (some­times a pic­nic ta­ble, some­times with an um­brella), although most peo­ple call ahead and wait in their cars for their or­ders. But if you’re will­ing to get your food to go or eat with your lunch perched on your lap, the taco trucks of Air­port Road are worth cross­ing town for, and a meal for two will gen­er­ally cost un­der $20.

The busi­ness model of a typ­i­cal Mex­i­can food truck is sim­ple: an en­cy­clo­pe­dic ar­ray of meats mar­i­nated in var­i­ous spice mix­tures, cooked to or­der on a flat-top grill, are used as fill­ings for tacos, bur­ri­tos, tor­tas, and que­sadil­las or with sides of beans and rice. (Some­times you’ll also spot items you might not think to or­der from a truck, like shrimp, oc­to­pus cock­tail, or ce­viche.) The menus for most of th­ese trucks are pretty much iden­ti­cal — usu­ally fea­tur­ing pho­to­graphs of the food on of­fer. (In my ex­pe­ri­ence, al­most ev­ery­thing is around $8.)

We sam­pled a num­ber of tacos and other menu items on Air­port Road. Here’s a look at a few of our fa­vorites.

TAQUERIA ARGELIA 4720 Air­port Road; 505-204-5211

Taqueria Argelia clearly stood out as the best of Air­port Road’s taco ven­dors. Once a mo­bile truck, this big white trailer now sits quasi-per­ma­nently on flat tires in the lot of a car wash next to the Ca­sitas de Santa Fe hous­ing park. At the time of our vis­its, it was one of two taco trucks with prices clearly listed on the menu (though the cost of many items were mostly iden­ti­cal — roughly $8 for four tacos or a torta, etc.). We tried the torta asada, which had av­o­cado and a creamy may­on­naise sauce that some­how tied ev­ery­thing to­gether and ended up be­ing sur­pris­ingly light. The tacos, both bar­ba­coa and deshe­brada, came with a choice of raw or sautéed onions, a side of gua­camole and lime, the fa­mil­iar cab­bage and cu­cum­ber salad, and a blis­tered jalapeño. The gua­camole had the tang of fresh ci­lantro. The meat was juicy, not oily at all, and per­fectly sea­soned; like the torta, it ended up be­ing re­fresh­ingly light. Four tacos (two bar­ba­coa, two deshe­brada) and one torta asada: $17

EL QUERETANO 4430 Air­port Road; 505-204-0306

El Queretano, tucked away in a park­ing lot next to a Lati­nos Unidos con­ve­nience store, is a food stand that of­fers a spot to sit shaded by um­brel­las. The tacos are gen­er­ous, with dou­bled-up corn tortillas, and are ac­com­pa­nied by a very spicy red salsa and a fresh lit­tle cab­bage gar­nish with cu­cum­bers. The bis­tec was ten­der and moist, and the bar­ba­coa was quite spicy, even with­out the salsa. The bur­rito al pas­tor was de­li­cious but def­i­nitely a food bomb — a mas­sive flour tor­tilla filled with a mound of pork, cheese, beans, and ci­lantro. Ul­ti­mately, it was hearty and fill­ing but not much else. Four tacos (two bis­tec, two bar­ba­coa) and one al pas­tor bur­rito: $17

TAQUERIA LA HACIENDA

Air­port Road and Fields Lane; 505-577-8068 La Hacienda is one brightly painted Christ­mas­col­ored truck in a mini vil­lage that in­cludes a beef jerky stand and a pollo truck. We tried the tacos ca­marones — which came filled with teensy, pleas­ingly sea­soned shrim­plets — and the tacos de bis­tec, which were fla­vor­ful, though a lit­tle dry. The torta Cubana was a bit odd; it con­sisted of pork and, for some rea­son, hot dogs, and, fair warn­ing, is not the same as the fa­mil­iar Cubano sand­wich. A Mex­i­can torta Cubana is es­sen­tially a deca­dent sand­wich of many var­ied meats, dif­fer­ent at ev­ery pur­veyor. In this case, the pork it­self was de­li­cious; the hot dogs, less so. Four tacos (two ca­marones, two bis­tec) and one torta Cubana: $18

COMPAS TACOS

Cor­ner of Air­port Road and Buf­falo Grass Road; 505-795-6979 Compas Tacos is a charm­ing lit­tle stand lo­cated in what looks like a red train car in a lot next to the Ti­betan Bud­dhist Cen­ter. The seat­ing sit­u­a­tion is odd (there’s one pic­nic ta­ble next to a sur­re­ally lonely tree in the mid­dle of a hot dirt lot), and they don’t take credit cards, but the food came out ex­tremely fast. The taco plate in­cluded slices of fresh av­o­cado and, un­usu­ally, a side of tasty Span­ish rice and re­fried beans. We tried tacos filled with bar­ba­coa and lengua, both of which were a lit­tle on the fatty side. The torta adovada was piled high with pork strips mar­i­nated in red chile — not as spicy or as wet as a North­ern New Mex­ico carne adovada. Four tacos (two bar­ba­coa, two lengua) and one torta adovada: $16

Taqueria Argelia

El Queretano

Compas Tacos

Taqueria La Hacienda

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