“Food? From a truck? Yeah, I think I’ll pass.”
Not too long ago, that was the thinking around food trucks. But the stigma of uncleanliness surrounding the hunger-halting mobile restaurants has seemingly died off, and some of the best eats in town and the greater Santa Cruz County are now on four wheels.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some of my experiences with the local eateries and show some love to the trucks who are doing it right.
Have I eaten at every food truck in Watsonville? No. Will I try to accomplish this before I die? Yes. How many pounds will I gain in the process? Probably too many.
Tacos La Chilanguita-Estilo D.F.
As its name suggests, this colorful truck on the corner of Freedom Blvd. and Crestview Drive prides itself on its tacos, and features several other options inspired by the food found in el Distrito Federal — what Mexico City was called before its name change in 2016. That means they serve almost every Mexican dish you can imagine — quesadillas, huaraches and gorditas, just to name a few — and in heaping portions.
I rolled with the pambazo ($8), a sandwich that’s filled with potato and chorizo, dipped in warm red guajillo pepper sauce and fried to a crisp. I added all the fixings, too: lettuce, tomato, sour cream and queso fresco, which is a must. Usually, I’m not a big fan of dipped sandwiches, as the bread tends to turn into a soaking mess that falls to pieces, but that wasn’t the case with this delicious delicacy — I burned through roughly three napkins while trying to keep my hands clean.
The guajillo pepper doesn’t turn up the heat too much. Instead, it serves as a rich undertone, which allows the fattiness of the chorizo and potato mix to shine. I washed it down with a medium agua de jamaica ($3), or hibiscus tea, which was just sweet enough. Easy way to know if you’re getting good agua fresca: the server will ask if you want ice. That means, you’re not getting a water down product.
Deals: Al Pastor tacos are $1 on Wednesdays.
Look out: This truck takes card, but it comes with a $1 extra service charge.
Location: 1428 Freedom Boulevard
Hours: Everyday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
If Hollywood director Michael Bay designed a taco truck, El Volcan — decked out with erupting volcanos and flying embers — would be the result. But don’t worry, this truck has plenty of substance to go with the flair unlike Bay’s recent flicks — his last four Transformers movies are awful and you cannot tell me otherwise.
This truck has every type of food you could imagine, made in ways you probably could not. Sure, you can get a hand-made tortilla taco ($2-3), a burrito ($6-9) or a quesadilla ($7-11) with your choice of their many tender meats: asada, barbacoa, cabeza, chorizo, pastor, chicken, tripa (chitterlings), tounge, fish and shrimp. Or you could be a little more adventurous and go with one of their uniquely loaded tortas ($6.50-7.50), burgers ($4-8) or hot dogs ($3.50-5).
As a lover of spicy food, I couldn’t resist the torta cuba-volcan, which comes stuffed with breaded beef, sausage, ham, jalapeño, mayo, pineapple, tomato, onion and jack cheese. I was a hungry boy that day, so I also ordered a pair of asada tacos, which to my surprise came with a free quesadilla.
ABOVE: The torta Cuba-volcan at El Volcan is loaded with breaded beef, sausage, ham, jalapenos, mayo, pineapple, tomato, onion and jack cheese. (Tony Nunez/Register-Pajaronian)
The torta was a giant jolt of nostalgia. The meats shoved between the pieces of toasted bread shouldn’t compliment each other, but they do in spades. The sausage, in particular, took me back to my childhood when I thought a halved hotdog on a French roll with some mustard was a culinary achievement. The jalapeños provided a small kick, but the mayo, pineapple and the melted cheese soothed most of the heat — a plus for some, and a negative for others.
The tacos come with a single sturdy tortilla that allows the meat, salsa and topping to do the heavy lifting — and boy do they.
Look out: The truck is not always there at 4 p.m. sharp
Location: 153 Main Street
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Friday-Saturday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Editor’s Note: Food Truck Tours is a recurring column from Managing Editor Tony Nunez. Have food truck recommendations? Send them his way at [email protected]