A Tale of Three Taco Trucks
A solitary black crow circled in the sky overhead. The punishing July sun did a cruel number on my fair skin, slowly turning my cheeks and neck as ruddy as a desert rose. Wild norteño music seemed to fill the air as clouds of black exhaust poured out from behind a Plymouth Gran Fury racing across the Lyle’s Fabric Store parking lot and up Best Avenue toward the horizon. An acrid, temptingly greasy aroma hovered as my hungry tummy moaned and spat like a ticked-off llama having a bad hair day.
I’d arrived at Taco Works mid-afternoon, smack dab between lunch and dinner time, thinking I’d be able to avoid both rushes, yet here I was in line behind a half-dozen other mean, starving people. In fact, I’d attempted to give the place a whirl a few times, but each time I’d driven by, the line was too long for my patience level vs. hunger quotient. On this 95 degree day, I was determined to melt and just wait it out. I surveyed my surroundings; a massive chain link fence provided a kind-of austere Correctional Center vibe. An aluminum carport was partially set-up as a seating area but the white resin chairs and tables were unappealingly grungy. Basically, if you did decide to dine-in, bringing your own table linens and candelabras would be highly recommended.
In the large blacktop field behind Taco Works was piled an eerily large assortment of disused, dispassionate appliances left by the neighboring repair shop to decompose and rust for eternity. In my hunger and heat stupor, I actually thought for a minute that this collection of urban decay might have been done on purpose, like an industrial modern art installation for patrons to consider and discuss while they eat their cheapo tacos. I was nearing the front of the line so I gazed toward the menu, neatly written on a tiny dry erase board like a small Mexican poem. Quesadilla, enchilada, chile rellano and sope. Soft or hard taco, burrito, tostada, and torta. Your choice of meat: chicken, steak or pork. The menu couldn’t have been more simple or reasonable, with everything falling firmly between $1.25 and $4.00 per item.
I finally made it into the tiny square of canopy shade in front of the order window of the bright orange Taco Works trailer. Glare and bad sign placement made it so that I couldn’t quite see the face of the nice lady who took my order. She was merely a smoky disembodied voice and a set of hands with elaborate nails and hippie jewelry. I could get a clear shot at the grinning cook however, and he looked like he had been doing his thing since around the time Arizona became the 48th state. He snapped into action pronto when he heard me order two hard tacos, one chicken and one pork and a chile rellano. Amazingly, the mystery hands returned a five and some change from the ten note I’d handed over. Cheap! Even more amazingly, by the time I was done digging in my pocket for enough change to throw in the tip jar, my food was ready. Fast! “You want hot sauce or hot hot sauce, baby?” asked the gravelly voice from beyond the window screen as I grabbed my meal. “Hot hot sauce, of course.” I said and she chuckled ominously.
Indeed, the sauce was hot like I like it but by the time I got home everything else wasn’t. Regardless of my heat-restoring nuke-job, these “hard tacos” were always in need of some Mexi-Viagra, having only been dipped in hot oil long enough to create a vague impression of stiffness. Despite the lack of crisp, they did taste fantastic, the pulled pork was sweet and juicy, the chicken was a little kicky, and the lettuce and cheese were bright and intensely fresh. The chile rellano was just okay, with a strong, rich sauce, but a bit overdone and with none of the thick batter that I normally like about the dish. Nothing to write mamacita about, but I’ve heard so many people rave about this place, I’m willing to chalk it up to an off day and re-visit the dead appliance graveyard soon for another taco or two.
I‘d heard there were a couple of other taco trucks in town and became determined to find them all. I did manage to locate two more by starting up in Hayden and heading south on Government Way. I flashed back to the now long-gone Orlando’s Mexican walk-up stand which famously served gloppy taco meat and cheese dumped right into a half-bag of Frito chips. Located right across from Orlando’s former spot, I spied a bright red truck-trailer labeled “Tacos Tumbras”. Diablos! It was closed, as would be the case a few days later on my second attempt. Post your hours, folks!
I pulled in anyway to examine the menu. If they’re ever open, they offer perhaps the most unusual and authentic Mexican fare I’ve seen in North Idaho. I don’t know a lot of Spanish, and I had to Google most of the menu when I got home to figure it out. I looked up “Huaraches”, and learned about a corn masa dish after wondering briefly how footwear could become cuisine. Also on offer are Jamon (cured ham), Tinga (chicken-and-chorizo salsa mix), and Milaneza (thin-pounded, breaded fried steak). My curiosity and appetite are so worked up, I will return to Tacos Tumbras over and over until I finally catch them open and if they never are, I will cry.
Fortunately, I came across the newly opened Alejandro’s Taco’s, located a few blocks north of Appleway on Gov’t. Breakfast is offered in the form of a fat chorizo and eggs burrito or a nice, classic huevos rancheros. Got a taste for tongue? Try a Lengua taco or burrito. I’m somewhat experimental food-wise, but there are certain animal parts I’ll never be able to get into, including anything from the neck up. I chose the chicken enchilada platter and an adovada (marinated pork) taco. While located merely a jalapeno toss away from a constantly busy street, the setting is slightly more relaxed than Taco Works. In fact, it’s located near the shady front lawn of someone’s house; hopefully they won’t mind sharing a little patch of grass while you eat sloppily right in their living room window.
My Alejandro’s haul was still actually warm when I got home, and the taco was oily-crisp and packed full, a messy but luscious beast that ended up dripping down my arm, then split into fractions before being finished with a fork. The chicken enchiladas had a really good sauce and copious globs of cheese but the chicken was diced into too-small, mysterious chunks of mainly dark meat and was chewy rather than tender. The accompanying rice and beans were good but did nothing to really rise above the norm. Still, as with the other local taco trucks, I’ll return happily to fill up on the delicious $1.25 tacos and maybe pick up a few more obscure Spanish words while I’m at it.