by Polly Keary, Editor
– Monroe Monitor –
Food trucks are a hot trend all over the country, offering everything from Kobe beef burgers to braised oxtail and fish soup.
But at the root of the trend is a long tradition of mobile taco restaurants, and Monroe has three.
They all serve traditional street tacos, each made with two small, soft corn tortillas upon which is placed an ounce or two of flavorful meat, a scatter of cilantro and a few cubes of diced onion. Alongside comes a radish slice to fold into the taco, and a chunk of lime to squeeze over all, as well as a little portion cup of red or green salsa for those who like their food to bite them back.
The meats served may include selections unfamiliar to some, including organ meats such as tripe, and cuts of meat such as pork cheek or beef tongue, but all include standard options of grilled steak (asada), chicken (pollo) and chopped pork (carnitas).
Other menu items vary among trucks, and may include the sloppy huarache, the soft sandwich called a torta, the familiar grilled quesadilla, or a selection of burritos.
Some worry that mobile food trucks might not be as sanitary as traditional restaurants, but they are inspected as frequently as are bricks-and-mortar places, and are held to the same standards.
Here is a peek at the dishes and selections at Monroe’s taco trucks.
Carne Asada – grilled thin-cut steak, usually marinated.
Adovada – chopped pork marinated in a red chile sauce
Lengua – tongue
Cabeza – pork cheek
Carnitas – chopped braised or roasted pork
Pollo – chicken
Buches – pork stomach fried in lard
Horchata – sweet, chilled rice milk drink flavored with cinnamon
Tripa – tripe
Camaron – shrimp
Chorizo – a very spicy sausage
Tacos El Rey
Tacos El Rey, which means Taco King, is found on West Main Street next door to Speedway Chevrolet, where it has parked daily on an empty lot for years. There is ample parking and outdoor seating. And, as is true of all the other stands in Monroe, the people taking orders are fluently bilingual.
Meats offered are asada, adobada, lengua, cabeza, carnitas and pollo. Tacos are $1.25 each.
Also on the menu are tortas, which arrive on soft, fresh, toasted bread rolls that are filled with the meat of your choice, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado and jalapeños, for $3.50.
Quesadillas are large, filled with cheese and your choice of meat, for $4, and burritos, which have rice, beans, avocado, lettuce and peppers, are $3.50.
Drinks are $1, and available is the sweet rice milk drink horchata, which tastes like rice pudding but is served chilled.
Food arrives fast, and there is a hand sanitizing station built into the side of the truck for people who want to eat at one of the picnic benches rather than taking their orders to go.
Taqueria La Michoacana
This taqueria, which means taco maker, has been parked on Lewis Street in front of Wolfill Feed and Fertilizer for years, but it recently has come under new management, and the new owners held a grand opening Saturday with a celebration including mariachis.
The new owners have slick menu cards printed in English, and offer a fairly extensive and deeply authentic menu for a mobile truck.
In addition to the usual tortas, burritos, quesadillas and tacos, they offer tostadas, which are tortillas laid out flat and piled high with meat, beans, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, tomatoes and avocado. Also on the menu are sopes, a simple thick cornmeal cup topped with meat, cabbage, tomatoes, a sauce and crumbly, white Mexican cheese.
The thick, soft tortillas for the enormous huaraches are made in the truck and sometimes right to order, then topped with rice, beans, meat, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole and cheese. The sauces soak into the tortilla, making the thing definitely a knife-and-fork food. A simpler version of the same thing is the chavindeca, which comes with meat, cheese, pico de gallo and guacamole.
Here, the adventurous eater can find buches among the voices of meat, as well as ceviche, a tangy, spicy dish that includes raw, highly marinated fish.
Among the extras for sale, find Mexican Coca Cola, made with cane sugar, a selection of Mexican sodas and Mexican candies and little bags of the delicious, crunchy soy-encrusted cacahuates japoneses, or Japanese peanuts.
This truck has been serving Monroe for at least eight years, and is parked daily from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. alongside the Coca-Cola mural-bedecked wall of the Monroe Laundry Company on East Main Street. In recent years it has added a semi-permanent green shelter for on-site dining out of the weather.
Unlike most trucks which only take cash, Tacos Pihuamo accepts Visa and Mastercard with a .50 cent surcharge. Along with burritos and quesadillas that include avocado, tomatoes and cabbage as well as meat and cheese, tortas and tacos; one can find tortas cubanas, or Cuban sandwiches. These are giant ham-filled tortas with lots of ingredients, as well as tortas milanesas, which are filled with a thin, breaded meat patty like a schnitzel.
Meats include the usual offerings, as well as rich, nearly caramelized buches, and tripe, which is available on tacos for a quarter extra.
There is a ton of Mexican candy for sale, as well a great selection of Mexican and American drinks. Standouts include horchata, coconut juice, guava juice, and agua de piña, or pineapple drink.
Any one of these stands offers a fun, inexpensive lunch only available in places with a significant Hispanic population.