There are some muy sabrosos tacos out there if you're brave enough to eat at a taco truck and don't mind ordering in Spanglish. -- Photos by Robb Walsh
In front of Jarro Café
What to get: Don't miss the steak (bifstek) taco made with thin-sliced Angus sirloin. Also recommended: the Campechana (beef and chorizo), cochinita pibil (slow-cooked pork) and beef-and-mushroom tacos. Flour tortillas are available for a little extra. Don't miss the salsa bar. The dark-green jalapeño-and-cilantro salsa may be the mildest; the dried chile salsa is complex and picante. Only the most dedicated chile-heads should attempt to ingest the incendiary orange chile de árbol sauce and the rip-your-lips-off neon green serrano slurry. The food is a little cheaper and a little faster at the taco trailer, but they have the same tacos inside the air-conditioned restaurant, where you also get chips, ice water, knives and forks and an expanded menu.
Top taco trucks
2520 Airline Drive (Behind Canino's)
What to get: Tacos de mollejas and tripitas (sweetbreads and tripe) are awesome. If you don't like offal, try the spicy pork al pastor, crisped up in a frying pan and served with raw onion and cilantro, and the awesome gordita, made with a thick masa cake split in half, then stuffed with homemade refried beans and Mexican cheese. Don't miss the roasted jalapeños. Mexican nationals come from miles around to eat Maria Rojas's home-style Michoacán-style cooking.
Southwest corner of Long Point and Antoine
Look for a shiny new taco truck parked in front of a car wash. The sanitary standards are exceptional. Both the man and woman behind the counter were wearing hair nets. What to get: The breakfast tacos are $1 a piece, and they're huge. They come with your choice of scrambled eggs with bacon, ham, potatoes, nopalitos, machacado (shredded beef), chorizo or roasted peppers on a corn or flour tortilla. The flour tortillas are handmade, and the chorizo is truly exceptional. The thick green salsa is pretty hot. There's no coffee, but there are fresh fruit aguas frescas available.
Long Point and Gessner
This is a "chain" with a couple of blue school buses and at least one blue trailer. They change locations often, but they can usually be found around the corner of Gessner and Long Point. At this writing, there is a blue bus on Gessner north of Long Point and a blue "El Norteño" truck out in front of the shopping center at 9893 Long Point. What to get: "Pollo asado estilo Monterrey" is their specialty -- $6 for half a chicken, $10 for a whole one. Both come with tortillas, a roasted onion, chiles and condiments. The chicken is good, but "costillas al carbón" -- a whole slab of grilled spare ribs with onions, chiles and condiments for $15 -- are even better. A half slab, which goes for $7.50, is more than enough for two.
La Silla Pollos Asados
Lawndale and Highway 225
This bright-yellow bus has a giant chicken character and the saddle-shaped mountain peak called "la silla" (the saddle) painted on the side. "La silla" is a landmark of Monterrey, Mexico, which must be famous for roasted chicken, because all the pollo asado operations brag about their roots there. What to get: For six bucks, these guys give you half of a tasty charcoal-grilled pollo, a bowl of frijoles, salsa and a stack of tortillas. A whole chicken is ten bucks
Tacos Tierra Caliente
1300 block of Montrose Boulevard in the "We Fix Flats" parking lot
Maria Samano and her flirtatious crew from the "hotlands" of Michoacán run this extremely popular taco trailer in the Montrose. What to get: barbacoa tacos with onions and cilantro. Ask Maria for the "salsita," and she'll hand you a squirt bottle full of her creamy green "hotlands hot sauce."
Southwest corner of Westheimer and Fondren
For a change of pace, try this Venezuelan-owned taco truck on the West side. The truck opens for business at 7 a.m. with 99-cent breakfast tacos. There's also a Mexican taco menu if you aren't interested in trying el sabor venezolano. What to get: The patacón looks like a sandwich, but instead of two slices of bread, there are green plantain slices that have been fried together into crispy rounds. A pile of shredded beef, a slice of ham, some cheese, and lettuce, tomato and mayo are layered between two of the plantain crusts. It tastes spectacular, and it's also very filling. A sauce made of cream with a little feta and basil is served on the side. Chile-heads might consider taking their patacones home and doctoring them up with a little hot sauce. The corn cakes called arepas are split, gordita-style, and stuffed with your choice of meats.
El Mapache III
Northwest corner of Renwick and Gulfton
The parking lot of the Bestop convenience store is attractively decorated with potted palms, giving the El Mapache III dining area a festive ambiance. El Mapache means "the raccoon." It's also a nickname for a bandit. What to get: The barbacoa taco features a huge mound of hot cheek meat, nicely shredded and very moist, on your choice of flour or corn tortillas. The salsa is a thick and creamy green concoction. The truck also sells roast chickens, and the beans are free on weekends.
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4400 block of Caroline Street
The Mexican Consulate is on San Jacinto. Behind it on Caroline Street, there are two competing taco trucks, Taqueria Torres and Jesse's Taqueria. Torres has the edge for tangy al pastor, best enjoyed with lots of gooey cheese on a quesadilla. But Jesse's has a decent chicken taco. And they have a copy machine, too. What to get: quesadilla al pastor, Mexican Cokes.
Tacos El Amigo
Northwest corner of Renwick and Dashwood
What to get: "torta cubana," a Mexican twist on the Cuban sandwich made with fajita meat, ham, a hot dog cut into lengthwise sections, cheese, lettuce, tomato and lots of guacamole, with hot sauce on the side. Doña Maria is the head chef, and her food is "todo estilo México," according to her card. The tacos are plain. The gordita is a bad joke. But Doña Maria's Mexican Cuban sandwich is outrageous.