Airport Road food trucks
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
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 La Hacienda