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Construction Site Taco Trucks

I teach at a college that is located several miles from town. Outside of the food facilities at the college (don't ask), there are no eateries close by. For last month or so, as I have driven to the college, I have noticed a taco truck parked at the construction site for the new high school being built nearby.

Finally, a week ago, I gave in to temptation, pulled into the parking lot there, walked up to the taco truck, and ordered a breakfast burrito with bacon. OMG, it was a foot long at least and packed with eggs and chunks and chunks of smoky bacon. There must've been a quarter pound of bacon inside that flour tortilla. It was three dollars. Today, I stopped back again and had two wonderful tacos de cabeza, the stewed shreds of beef cheeks topped with shredded cabbage on flavorful corn tortillas. Of course there were salsas, both red and green, to ladle on the tacos. Just wonderful. And only $2.50 total for both.

Though I do like eating at taco trucks, this is the first time that I have gone to a taco truck at a construction site. If I were not working in a chow desert, I might never have thought about it, but now that I have crossed the line, I will look at construction sites with a more careful eye. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

ed

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  1. I imagine construction sites must be a good places for a taco truck to park. I had a favorite one near a construction site here, the construction stalled, and the truck disappeared. Those trucks aren't common here, and I was sad to see it go. I'm on the lookout though. Lucky you!

    1. Boy do I have the visual on that one Ed ;-)

      1. Who knows, maybe the cater...

        1. My husband has a theory that the quality of mexican food is inversely proportional to the quality of the structure you buy it from.

          1 Reply
          1. re: saraeanderson

            That is without a doubt true in the U.S. Its very simple... you don't go to a Restaurant for Tacos in Mexico... it is simply impossible for them to compete with a Taco truck. No matter what prime cut of meat you use or fancy topping... a taco assembled in front of your face and served hot enough to burn you just cannot be beat by a more elaborate operation where the food takes 5 - 10 minutes to go from Plating to Table.

            In contrast in Mexico... you wouldn't get a Chile en Nogada from a street vendor... in that dish the advantage is to fancier restaurant etc.,

          2. Sadly, one of the local communities here in suburban Atlanta recently passed a ban on "mobile catering trucks" (read "taco trucks"). Cloaked as a health concern, this was really just a thinly vieled attempt at harassing the reportedly illegal workers that are well represented in the local construction trade.

            So now I can't get my house built and I'm hungry!

            3 Replies
            1. re: SalMonela

              Because of the onerous health code restrictions, just about the only hot meal you can get from downtown DC vendors is hotdogs. Similar situation with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival; they used to have lots of different foods from different regions but because of healthcode crackdowns, they ended up peddling heavily processed, factory catered-type foods (i.e., haggis "burgers" and lo mein).

              I don't want to get cholera but I'd like to have a little variety and authenticity.

              1. re: monkeyrotica

                yep...they were really adventerous last year w/buffalo burgers a the yemen area?

                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  It works differently in DC.

                  Women with wheelie carts with coolers filled with homecooked food and drink are always around construction sites at lunchtime in DC... When I lived there, I got food from them all the time--beans, stews, homemade tortillas, soups, atol, pupusas, tamales, fruit... When I was visiting DC this summer for just a week or so, I got food from several different ladies, just walking around my old neighborhood (Columbia Heights--lots and lots of construction going on there).

              2. Here's something my Dad told me a long time ago - for value and quality (heartiness) look for construction workers, their trucks and around where they work or ask for a recommendation. The logic is universal. In San Francisco if you see a Chinese restaurant and there's Chinese construction workers in there, bet on getting a LOT of food and it being inexpensive and good. Same applies to all groups or places and consturction workers.

                1. I had a similar experience. I would always see one, or more than one, Ready_mix cement trucks always parked in or around an area of town. I thought that was a bit strange because there were no apparent concrete projects going on, nor was there a cement yard anywhere nearby. So, I studied the situation a bit, and found the drivers were going into this hole-in-the-wall, a place that even if you were three sheets to the wind, you might consider turning around. They were coming out with long hero sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil just glistening under the lunch-hour sun.

                  I worked up the courage to go in, ordered what I thought I was going to enjoy, and walked out with some glistening delight of my own, in a brown bag of course. Had the most amazing hot sandwich ever !!! The point is, don't only look for construction *sites*, but look also for construction *vehicles*. Those guys know where the good chow is. They have big appetites to satisfy too. If you're in a shirt and tie, or a skirt, don't sweat it. Get in there. Good chow is both white and blue collar friendly.

                  ML8000, excuse the redundancy. You got your reply in just as I was keying mine in.

                  1. Bet that truck would do fine at your college. Suggest it to him. There may be administrative hurdles, which might be overcome if each decision-maker had a taco in front of him/her. :-)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Sharuf

                      That would be great at a college. Reminds me of Oxford (a long time ago, don't know if it's still the same) where there were doner/donner/donar/donnar kabob vans everywhere so you were never more than a few steps from a hot pita sandwich. Important at 2am when you were studying and hungry (or not studying but still hungry).

                      1. re: Sharuf

                        This is really weird, but after posting about my missing taco truck, a friend told me he'd heard it was now parked near the local big high school! I need to check that out.

                      2. I think it really depends on the region of the country and demographics. DC/NoVA has a large Latino community, but it's predominately Central American, not Mexican. Mostly soft tacos and burritos. There are "burrito vans" that tend to operate covertly in downtown DC. It's something of an art to track the best ones and where they're located this week. I've looked through a few suburban construction sites and found similar burrito vans, but they're usually peddling anglo-fied fastfood (burgers, hotdogs, packaged snacks, etc.).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          Soft tacos and burros are the main items the truck offers. Many meat choices including stuff like lengua, cabeza, chicherones, pollo, etc.

                          In this case, the truck has the name of a catering company and phone # on the truck. I'm sure the contractor selects/approves of them. They have limited hours at the HS location, so perhaps they service other construction sites in the area as well.

                          ed

                        2. around here we call them "roach coaches", and its best to stay clear of them unless you want to be ill.

                          I live in the Chicago Area.

                          1. They're EVERYWHERE in Los Angeles, especially once the sun sets. I live in a census tract that's 82% Latino according to the government, and I can walk to ten mobile food vendors in under five minutes, at various times of day. We do make a distinction, by the way -- there are taco tables and then there are catering trucks (also called "roach coaches"). Both are common, but the roach coaches tend to have a bigger menu.

                            My office is in a chow desert -- literally the only thing we could walk to is the hot dog cart at the Home Depot -- so we get different roach coaches each day, within about two blocks of the office (on the "wrong side of the tracks" underneath the Olive Street bridge in Burbank, for those who are wondering). There's a fantastic Italian one, two different Mexican ones (Eagle Foods and La Tapachulteca), Marie Callender's, Sunrise Kitchen, Ernesto's Pupusas, and a taco table (Tacos Aguilar).

                            I have never, ever had any kind of problem eating from these trucks -- and if you look at the Digest for the last couple of weeks, you'll find a thread on the LA board from Dommy! about a great taco table she found in East LA.

                            My father taught me that most of the time, the quality of the food is inversely proportional to the decor, and to follow truck drivers and construction workers to good food.

                            I've eaten at these trucks when I was studying summers at Rutgers on the College Ave. campus (but we called them "grease trucks"), I've eaten at them on the South Side of Chicago, and I've eaten at them in Houston.

                            Most of them would be horrified if they ever made anyone ill, because if you get sick, you won't come back, and you might tell other people who would stay away, and they would be out of a pretty lucrative business... I've been in the La Tapa truck when the lady fell down and hurt herself and it was as clean as a whistle, with the grease and grill scrapings relegated to a closed bucket and the food kept at appropriate temperatures.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              Yep, I'd rather eat at a Taco Truck than at an Olive Garden.

                              1. re: Walters

                                Amen. The best food I've ever had was served at restaurants most Americans would find too dingy. Their loss = more food for me.

                                1. re: Walters

                                  Taco trucks are at least as clean as the average restaurant. Among other things, they don't have big piles of garbage sitting just outside the back door attracting vermin.

                                  I think that catering trucks that serve premade sandwiches may be iffy, if the sandwiches are made up too far in advance and sit around too long. But taco trucks cook and assemble to order, so that's not a problem.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Was browsing through the Sonoma County inspection records for a couple of my favorite taco trucks, and they came through clean as a whistle. Can't say the same for Michelin-starred Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen, that needed TWO reinspections to clean up its act.
                                    http://food.sonoma-county.org/FoodIns...

                              2. I chased one down after it went by me going the other way....it vanished into a housing tract under construction before I could get turned around, and I never did find it. Whipped out the phone book I carry in my car, and found the parent restaurant in an aging strip mall in an out-of-the-way part of town.

                                It was fantastic! Mismatched plastic chairs and tables, peeling linoleum floors but real horchata hand-dipped from a huge glass jar. Carnitas to die for, and my favorite, lengua! And a nice Mexican market/deli next door with fabulous looking prepared meats and tamales. Totally worth the 45- minute adventure!

                                1. Anticompetitive forces are pushing for banning mobile food vendors/taco trucks in Salinas, CA, my home town.
                                  http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/mon...

                                  1. Outside of NYC, I've never been to a cart where my order was actually assembled right in front of me after I ordered.

                                    Around here (Kansas City), my only ongoing experience with a "lunch truck" was sometime in the 1970s and I can't even remember where I was working at the time but it wasn't a construction site. This shiny silver lunch truck came each day at the same time for about 20 minutes only. There was no hot food, just amazingly tasty cold sandwiches, homemade cookies, fresh fruit, candy bars, juice, milk and hot coffee.

                                    A coworker urged me to try the egg salad sandwich but I was leery. She assured me they were divine and she'd eaten them almost daily for a couple of years and the sandwiches were always fresh, tasty and she never got sick from them. I became an addict. They were never soggy because the egg salad itself was between two lettuce leafs and then the bread around that.

                                    The meat sandwiches I tried were excellent. The owner/driver said the roast beef, chicken and turkey were all roasted fresh right before assembling the sandwiches. Judging by the quality of them, I believe what he said. No packaged lunch meat at all.

                                    There's now a big construction site just west of the Country Club Plaza where I saw a lunch truck parked the other day. It brought back fond memories and I actually considered stopping but there was no safe place to park and the truck was pulled into the fenced area around the site so it might have been difficult for me to gain access anyhow.

                                    1. I've never noticed taco trucks at construction sites -- I first encountered them when I was trucking -- there was a frequently a taco truck (or roach coach, as a lot of the truckers called them, even while proclaiming they had the best food) at warehouse loading sites. I noticed that they seemed to be more common in the southwest of the country then in the north east-- I can't recall every seeing one in Ohio or NY, though I might see a couple a day in CA or TX.

                                      The food was always really good -- better then anything you could get at the truckstops or in the little canteens set up to serve the truckers by the companies.

                                      1. Our favorite taco truck (especially at 2 AM) is the one parked outside the Mexican dancehall around the corner from the country music bar. Yep, that's some good eating.

                                        1. I haven't actually seen a taco truck in a while around here (Bellevue/Redmond WA area) but the ones that are in the area are almost always parked at gas stations, and tend to stay there for a week or two at a time. I've only ordered from one a couple of times (it can be hard to track one down when it moves) but the food has been quite good when I can find them.

                                          1. My first true taco truck experience was also in a construction site...my own neighborhood's construction, that is!! when we moved to NorCal, we picked out a house that was in a 1/2-finished development. so for several months after moving in, there were a couple of trucks that would come into our street to feed the workers finishing up the houses down the block. I would notice that almost all building activity would stop when the truck pulled up; hmm....what's all this?? so one day my curiosity finally got me and I walked down a couple hundred yards and ordered up some tacos al pastor. ique rico! a week later, tried the carnitas, then carne asada...yum. by the 2nd time, one of the const workers strikes up a convo (I obviously stick out as the only non-construction worker customer). we gab in spanglish about the housing work. after he asks me where I live, then he mentions that he remembers finishing my house 4 months earlier! so we start to talk about the house itself, and I mention a couple of complaints I had that had not yet been resolved by the homebuilder customer svc dept. The worker then offered to come over and help me out! He came over later that day and patched some stucco that had cracked off of the side of the house. pretty nice gesture I'd say. I've gone off in a tangent here, but I guess my point is I now have a fondness for the social/communal aspect that gathering around these trucks can provide.