Cheap Eats: Taqueria Cedral on Ella Is All About The Fajita Quesadilla and Tacos al Pastor

The taco al pastor, center, comes topped with a grilled jalapeno and onions.
The taco al pastor, center, comes topped with a grilled jalapeno and onions. Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp

The barbacoa and the lengua are fine, sure, but you need to just cut right to the chase at Taqueria Cedral, a taco truck that's always parked on Ella between 610 and 34th, that one you probably keep driving by but have never actually been to.  The taco al pastor is the thing to order.

This exceptional pork taco (I ordered mine on flour; don't judge) is succulent and packed with flavor. There's no overly-sweet tiki-level pineapple madness going on here, but a balanced note of cumin and chiles, and something very special that takes this taco to dreamboat level: an additional topping of tenderly-grilled onions and a big old grilled jalapeno, nature's hot sauce. There's also a side of salsa verde to slather on if you wish and the usual dressing of cilantro and chopped onion too. You will utter a "whoa" or an "oh" or an "oh my God" upon first taste. That's expected.  In your porky lunch throes you may conspire to never eat another taco again. All this will set you back about $2.

The prices are not posted on the truck, the colorfully airbrushed affair that on the day I visited was manned by two women, neither of whom appeared to be sweating given the temperature.

I arrived around 1 p.m. Nobody else in sight. I imagine Taqueria Cedral attracts a breakfast crowd before the sun is even up.  In some respects, it's easy to drive right by this truck in broad daylight because it's hard to notice that the string lights are, in fact,  illuminated. Cardboard in the windshield keeps out the sun, but makes it look kind of abandoned. There is also the fact that there is basically nothing about this truck to be found online, only trace evidence that yes, in Garden Oaks/Oak Forest, this truck has seemed to exist in some form since 2009.

click to enlarge Taqueria Cedral in the summer heat. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
Taqueria Cedral in the summer heat.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp

click to enlarge The fajita quesadilla. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
The fajita quesadilla.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
"What's the specialty?" I ask.

Quesadillas. In fact when my food comes out after just a short wait, wrapped in foil and inside a small plastic Thank You Thank You Thank You bag, it's what I go for first. The quesadilla is so hot that my tongue becomes the scorched victim of my failure to exhibit restraint, as the cheese stretches from here to Wisconsin with my first bite, appeased only by a swig of Sprite ($1 for a can). Everything that's perfect about steak and cheese, when served together on whatever carb-vessel is available in close proximity (cheesesteak lovers take note) is captured in this fajita quesadilla.

Despite it's appearance, the quesadilla, comprised of just a single tortilla that's folded over, never gets drippy with grease, and the white cheese maintains its melty and creamy quality for at least ten minutes, the perfect pairing for tender, well-seasoned fajita (skirt steak), before it starts congeal, hardening into the tell-tale "you waited too long" glob. It'll set you back about $3, and it's totally worth it.

click to enlarge Menu items are painted on the side of the truck. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
Menu items are painted on the side of the truck.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
Taqueria Cedral, 3303 Ella
Open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.