To assume that Refresqueria Rio Verde is simply a refresqueria would be incorrect.
Although the sides of its white-and-red truck are painted with the colors and flavors of the various raspas it sells, you may miss the comparatively less emphatic "tacos" and "tortas" that look like afterthoughts. You'll need to get up close and personal to find that menu: smaller, partially hidden behind the plastic trays full of condiments for truck's elotes and freshly sliced fruit -- both snacks waiting to be sprinkled with rust-colored chile en polvo for a spicy kick.
On that small menu, you'll find that aside from just snacks, Refresqueria Rio Verde also serves a full menu of tacos. I sort of hate that I'm telling anyone this, but they're one of the best-kept secrets in town.
A line always forms outside Refresqueria Rio Verde on the weekends, when the flea market here on Long Point at Pech is filled with cars and families and especially little kids hungry for a raspa, or Mexican snowcone. That's what first drew me to Refresqueria Rio Verde five years ago. The raspas and elotes -- roasted corn served on the cob or in a Styrofoam cup, your choice -- are what kept me coming back.
And then one day about a year ago, I noticed that Refresqueria Rio Verde had added a more substantial food menu. Not many people seemed to care, as the dishes I always saw handed through the window were the same standard rotation of elotes, Frito pies and raspas.
The tacos are probably terrible, I thought. That's why no one's ordering them. But how wrong I was.
Although the lengua is always underseasoned and mushy, the chicharron and fajita tacos never disappoint. The chicharrones are served just the way I like them: braised in salsa, this one a tangy red that infuses the fatty skin with just a lick of heat. The fajita taco features well-seasoned chunks of beef with the robust flavor of a timeworn grill.
I tried the carne asada for the first time last Thursday afternoon and was excited to find the stewed chunks of beef were even tastier than the fajitas. The carne asada and chicharron tacos are also two of the messiest tacos you can order, so you may want to eat them over the hood of your car rather than inside it.
Ditto the Frito pie, which is always a glorious mess. The stadium nacho cheese and cumin-laced chili are ladled straight into an opened bag of Fritos, just as God and nature intended, and usually end up covering at least half of the bag's exterior -- but the mess is always worth it.
The best news is that because Refresqueria Rio Verde is typically viewed as a "companion" food truck to the bright blue El Norteño truck directly next door -- a place to buy snacks, instead of a full food truck in its own right -- the line is short and moves quickly. Everyone else is stepping up onto the worn wooden platform beneath the truck's main window to order raspas and elotes. But not you.
You're here for the tacos.
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