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Chowhound Assignment:Your Top 5 Food Carts/Trailers

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scrumptiouschef Apr 22, 2007 11:23 AM

Let's talk about our favorite food carts.Let's go deep on this one.We need two factors to be satisfied:Obscurity and Intense Deliciousness.If we have to choose between the two then opt out for I.D over obscurity...some places can't help if they're well placed and popular.I'm heading over to El Rico[Montopolis] this afternoon to plow through more of her menu and am satisfied she'll make the top 5.Reggie's[Chicon] obviously at this point has already been semi-celebrated but more investigation is clearly warranted.El Rapido[downtown and only on weekends]is very fine,the ratio of Mexicans to white folks in their line at 2:30 in the morning tells the real story.Haven't read too much about the taco cart inside Fiesta Mart but her Carnitas are on par with Hacienda's for luxury in your mouth deliciousness.The cart with no name on Comal just south of 7th st is going to be a strong contender in this category,I've found it's array of meats to be waaay above average and the use of cabbage instead of lettuce always hollers authentic.These are my initial 5.What are yours'?

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  1. MPH Apr 22, 2007 03:48 PM

    I've got a few favorites:

    1) Taquería Piedras Negras No. 2 on the corner of East César Chávez and Pleasant Valley

    This place serves some of my favorite versions of traditional taco fillings (carne guisada, carne en chile colorado). See also: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/93175#511775

    2) El Taquito, at 500 East Riverside Drive

    Solid down-home Tejano cooking. For details: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/389338

    3) Al Pastor, in the shopping center with the bingo parlor on East Riverside

    This is a trailer version of the Al Pastor restaurant located in the same shopping center, not an independent trailer. Great al pastor. More details on the chow can be found in the same thread linked to in #2 above: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/389338

    That’s all I can think of for now, but I'm working on adding more entries to my list soon!

    1 Reply
    1. re: MPH
      s
      scrumptiouschef Apr 22, 2007 06:24 PM

      Rolled back over to El Rico in Montopolis this afternoon...got waylaid on the way there by a small hand painted sign:Pollos Asados,near the Pak n Save on Montopolis.A couple big beefy Mexican guys were throwing chunks of mesquite into an array of smokers and a woman was walking a giant platter of charred meats back to a small food trailer a few feet away.I strolled down the dirt path to the patio dining area[ahhh,dirt paths...anytime I've strolled down dirt paths to eat I've always done quiet well in the eats.]I ordered a Carne Asada taco and a side of Pinto Beans[went small cause I knew the lady at El Rico was beckoning].The Carne Asada came plain with a lime and a cup of Pureed Poblano Salsa.The quality of the meat was good,not Graciellas calibre but still good.The Salsa was above average and complimented the taco nicely.The star however was the Pintos,nice and loose,swimming in a salty,porky bath of love.I fished out all the beans then guzzled the broth as a chaser to the meal.
      Yeah.
      Hopped back on my bike and motored a few blocks away to El Rico.Went for the Barbacoa Tostada and was hugely rewarded:A nice fried corn disc topped with good refrieds,white cheese,avocado,cabbage,thin sliced radish,crema and toothsome Barbacoa,nice and fatty and soulful tasting.She handed me an excellent duo of salsas:a fiery thin red and a creamy avocado based green.I kicked back in the quick mart parking lot and watched the bustle of the neighborhood,ladies walking down the street with baskets of overflowing laundry,giggly teenage girls traipsing down the sidewalk toward the river,young guys in lowriders slow rolling with DJ Screw giving up some good sounds for all within earshot.Ambience,obviously was top notch and the food was fine as Hell.She's open Tuesday through Sunday from 3pm-10pm.

    2. Nab Apr 22, 2007 07:37 PM

      Was just at a gas station on I-35 (feeder road) at Cesar Chavez (on the other side of I-35 from the Holiday Inn), and noticed a trailer advertising, "No Teeth Barbecue - Coming Soon". Not sure this entices me much though, since I prefer my cue to have a little tug and chew.

      Still having not familiarized myself with Austin enough to have found all these trailers on my own, I can't offer much input on this thread unfortunately. But I will enjoy watching the thread grow (which I hope it will), and will try to go hunting around myself.

      1. a
        adimari Apr 22, 2007 10:39 PM

        The trailer on IH35 and Braker has the best home made tacos I have eaten in Austin. They taste like back home, like my mother used to cook. I have only been there for lunch so I do not know how late they are open. Their chicharron taco, and pastor are my favorites.

        1 Reply
        1. re: adimari
          a
          ashes Apr 24, 2007 12:15 PM

          Which corner or in which parking lot?? I looked for it yesterday in the 5 o'clock slog home (I exit Braker) and didn't see it.

        2. j
          johnm Apr 23, 2007 06:00 AM

          On the west side of South First Street at Heartwood, about halfway between St. Elmo and Stassney, La Flor sits in the parking lot of the Shop 'n' Save convenience store. My favorite breakfast tacos in town, also ample variety lunch tacos, plus gorditas, tamales and the like.

          In the parking lot of the HEB at Oltorf and S. Congress is an helotes trailer that is also pretty great.

          1 Reply
          1. re: johnm
            t
            Tacha Apr 24, 2007 09:28 AM

            Johnm,

            About the elotes... are they authentic? Prepared like they do in Mexico? If so, I'll be the happiest person in the world.

            Thanks for any info.

            Tacha

          2. MPH Apr 23, 2007 06:23 PM

            On the east side today, I spotted three different taco trailers in transit: Triny's Foods, Taquería Rodriguez (whose menu looked great), and one other one that sped by so fast that I couldn't catch the name.

            If anyone has information about where the two named above are usually parked, I'd love to hear about it. I'll also post an update when I manage to track them down and try their chow.

            7 Replies
            1. re: MPH
              s
              scrumptiouschef Apr 23, 2007 07:29 PM

              I picture ol MPH,steely-eyed in high speed pursuit of some food truck,freshly spotted,pulling alongside-honking...waving "hey man,pull over,I'm starving and I got an assignment"the driver's calling the cops"There's some crazy person trying to run me off the road....HELP".But I digress.I also spotted a new cart today,as you go south on Airport about ten blocks past Oak Springs on the east side of Airport blvd...dirt parking lot and a tarpaulin topped al fresco dining area.I'm heading over there in a few minutes and will report back later tonight.Haven't made it to El Taquito yet but soon and thanks for the tip.

              1. re: MPH
                a
                ashes Apr 24, 2007 12:14 PM

                I've seen Triny's foods all over, especially at construction sites in the campus area. The impression I get is that they are fairly mobile at all times and hop about from site to site for "break time" snacks for the blue collar crowd.

                1. re: ashes
                  a
                  ashes Apr 24, 2007 06:12 PM

                  I should clarify...now that my memory is serving better. I saw Triny's about a week ago around 9 or so in the morning parked near the new mega apartment/condo site on Guadalupe btw. the Blockbuster and the Chevron station (across from the Taco Bell near 29th).

                  Also, when I lived in East Austin I would see the truck, I think heading home or to load up again, on E. MLK near Springdale (early mornings and around 5).

                2. re: MPH
                  Twill Apr 24, 2007 04:36 PM

                  I believe it's Triny's that I've seen parked between MLK and 21st on University Ave during the lunch hours of the construction crew on the new hotel at UT, generally about 11:30-noon.

                  Also, there's a brown El Camino (?) with a camper top that has an exhaust flue coming out of it that parks in the lot to the southeast of the Dobie garage. When I've passed, I've noticed racks of tacos and pots in the back and a pretty good share of the construction crew hovering around. I think this is a true mom and pop operation, probably no permit, but I've been tempted none the less. I'll report back if I decide to brave it.

                  1. re: Twill
                    MPH Apr 24, 2007 04:49 PM

                    Scrumptiouschef's hypothetical account of me trying to drive a food truck off the road is embarrassingly close to the truth! I tailed one all the way to I-35, but lost sight of the truck—and all hope of trying their tacos that day—in the merge.

                    So, thanks for the info on Triny's fixed location and the heads-up about the El Camino near UT. I appreciate it. Should you check out the chow at either place yourself, I’d love to hear your review.

                    Best,
                    MPH

                    1. re: Twill
                      s
                      scrumptiouschef Apr 24, 2007 07:39 PM

                      Food Fantasy number 47:Eat food cooked in a brown El Camino,jostling to hold my spot in the line with some Hill Country Honcho workmen style guys.Winning their respect with some good ol down home commentary while we all chow down,hunkered down on the curb of a beat up asphalt parking lot.I'll be there tomorrow around lunchtime and report back.

                      1. re: scrumptiouschef
                        Twill Apr 25, 2007 03:20 AM

                        I usually pass this spot around 11:45 after a jaunt over to CoCo's or Pho Tai Soon, and you'll be amazed at how accurate your imagination is regarding the setting. I may just be romanticizing the vehicle as an El Camino, so bear with my impressionistic description on that account.

                  2. tastegood Apr 24, 2007 09:52 AM

                    Where did El Rapido go? They used to be across from Emo's but haven't been there in over a year, so I assumed they were toast. I absolutely love their Al Pastor.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tastegood
                      m
                      meetmeat Aug 13, 2007 01:41 PM

                      He's still there, well sort of -- now he's in the parking lot just north of Emos. He's there almost every Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- sometimes Wednesday too. And I just found out he lives next to my sister...weird.

                    2. Bababooey May 14, 2007 12:10 PM

                      I don't yet have a "favorite", but I just tried a new trailer on 2222 and 620 this morning for breakfast tacos. It's called "Hook'em Up Tacos", complete with burnt orange longhorn logo. They offer teh standard lineup of fillings. I chose 1 egg and bacon and one egg and chorizo, both with salsa.

                      The tacos were a bit watery, perhaps from the salsa. Tortillas were store-bought, but passable. Fillings were all good: eggs fluffy, bacon cooked and tender/crisp, chorizon flavorful and spicy. The salsa was pretty lame - no discernable kick, and little flavor. Just made my taco messy.

                      It's in a great location for me, so I'll be back and try some other "flavors". Oh, the tacos are $1.50 each, including tax for 2 fillings. They have a 6-item taco for $2.75 (eggs, bacon, cheese, beans, chorizo, ???).

                      1. MPH Aug 10, 2007 04:12 PM

                        For those chowhounds who are always on the hunt for new taco trucks, I have a new one to add. Its name is Taco Vera, and it is located at 5210 Manor Road, in the parking lot of a Shell gas station with low gas prices ($2.69). The menu includes the usual suspects (fajitas, bisteck, al pastor), plus flautas, suadero [a tender strip of beef from the lower part of the rib], and pambazos [hot, savory sandwiches, sort of like tortas]. I wonder if the owners are from Michoacán or maybe Veracruz? The latter two items don’t show up on typical menus.

                        I should’ve stopped at the Taco Vera in the Shell station’s parking lot—to fuel up in both senses of the word—but I was on a reconnaissance mission. I did get a paleta from a guy selling them from his bike; he’d stopped to go to the Shell convenience store. By the way, scrumptious, just to see what other food options might be available, I followed Manor Road northeast from El Centenario and Taquería el Rinconsito, all the way past the point where it joins up with Springdale. I finally turned back at the HEB at Susquehanna, out by 183, in far northeast Austin. The only other food options were Fruteria la Ricura, about a block further north on the opposite side of the road from Taco Vera, and another Michoacana Meat Market at 5706B Manor Road, in the “Walnut Creek Village” shopping center at the intersection of Manor and Rogge.

                        I was actually on my way back to what I’d thought was the mother lode of taco trucks back at Manor Road and Pershing. On my first pass, I’d seen about 7 trucks parked there. Unfortunately, it was just a fenced lot where some food and other trucks park. There were several trucks there from Taquería Preferida, plus one other vendor, all behind a fence. Someone had just washed a Preferida truck, but otherwise I couldn’t see any signs of life. I’m afraid that I couldn’t find out where they usually do business. To make matters worse, by the time I got back to Taquería el Rinconsito around 4:20 P.M., it was closed; plus, the people at nearby El Centenario were on a break at that time. Darn it!

                        Taco trucks, taco trucks, everywhere / Nor any bite to eat. . . I’ve seen food trucks all over town today. Triny’s sped past me, again, taunting me when I was stopped at a light on Airport Boulevard. and 45th. I also saw a food truck with a large peanut on top, driving right down Airport as well. By that time, I thought I was hallucinating, but no, it turned out to be real. I don’t have any ideas about where that one usually does business. If any of you chowhounds do, I’d like to know more about it.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: MPH
                          s
                          scrumptiouschef Aug 10, 2007 04:55 PM

                          I hit Taco Vera about a month ago.It was ok.I asked for Carnitas and Pollo.I got two Carnitas and they were subpar.The salsa was ok,I had to ask for lime and salt.Not good.Ambience was above average:Sun drenched parking lot,guys pushing a busted Nova into the gas station.They were doing a brisk business in chicken but I was shut out of the chicken consortium that'd sprung up.It smelled great and I will be back.One Saturday morning there was a crowd of humans near an apt at the intersection,I qued up at the balcony for what turned out to be Goat Tacos off the terrace.They were AMAZING.I've been back a couple times but the Tio did not appear.Worth a visit if you get lucky

                          1. re: scrumptiouschef
                            MPH Aug 10, 2007 05:58 PM

                            Thanks for the feedback, scrumptious. I just might have to try some suadero and a pambozo from Taco Vera. Given your experience, I'll probably pass on the tacos. That is, unless I happen to see a crowd nearby waiting for fresh tacos de cabrito!

                            1. re: MPH
                              d
                              diva360 Sep 3, 2007 05:54 PM

                              I went to check out what I thought was Taco Vera today as I was driving E on Manor. I had remembered that someone mentioned it was in a gas station parking lot, and I spotted a nameless truck in a Citgo parking lot at the corner of Manor and 51st. It turns out that it is called Manuel's. I just tried one pollo taco, as I was in a chickeny mood and not super hungry. The flavor was good, though it was a bit dry. Tortillas are store-bought though not bad, and the tacos come with lime, cilantro, and raw white onions. The salsa is of the green, creamy, mild-to-medium-hot variety. They have tripas for those with a taste for such things. The woman "manning" the cart said they are open from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and their number is 733-4781.

                              I returned to El Centanario and tried the orange-red salsa. It's really good and must be made with a combination of dried chilies, but it's not as hot as the green. I think I like the green just a little bit better though I have to be careful not to overdo it. This time the tortillas were too dry. I noticed they have suadero on their menu too, something I haven't had, and that's the next thing I'll try. Their number is 788-1910 if that is useful to anyone. I've enjoyed trying out all of your suggestions--thanks.

                              I want to try a pamboza from Vera soon--I've never had one. Sounds like I'll have to go a mile or two farther east from Manuel's.

                        2. k
                          KnewInTown Aug 10, 2007 04:39 PM

                          Can anyone tell me if they tried the cart near the "Y" at 290/71? Ikeep driving past the sign after work, never while it's open. Would make it a point to try, If...

                          1. f
                            foodiefound Aug 13, 2007 10:10 AM

                            Has anyone tried Giovanni's Pizza on Barton Skwy and S. Lamar? Everytime I try to go (fighting rushour traffic, no less) I am greeted with a closed door. The first day I found out they open after 5 and yesterday was their "monthy day off". Boo. Anyways, I'm going to try yet again today or tomorrow and report back. Any suggestions on what I should order?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: foodiefound
                              s
                              scrumptiouschef Aug 13, 2007 10:19 AM

                              Call them at 512-656-7033 to make sure they're open before swinging by.A large will set you back 8 bucks with a dollar surcharge per topping.

                              1. re: scrumptiouschef
                                d
                                diva360 Sep 1, 2007 11:18 PM

                                I picked up one chicken taco from El Centenario for a snack while I was getting a fruit cup from La Fruta Feliz because Taqueria el Riconsito was closed. (I have developed a serious addiction to those fruit cups, and the nice Mexican ladies there laugh at me, perhaps because I'm a gringa who likes the fruit with salt, chili powder, and lime. They always remind me that the chili is spicy). The chicken was quite tender and moist, and I suspect it was stewed. It came with griddled onions and cilantro, so the onions were more mellow than those TER uses. The flour tortilla was homemade, and while good, it was not as delicious as TER's. I was expecting the red salsa that scrumptious has described, but when I got home I found some green salsa in my bag. I dumped about half of it on my taco expecting a mild tomatillo salsa, but man, was it hot. My eyes were watering halfway through the taco and tears were streaming down my cheeks, but in a good way. I'm a little wimpy about heat, but not too much. I'd be curious to hear what some of you guys think, though next time I'm going to request the red salsa--maybe I can get one of each for a side by side comparison.

                                I was surprised to see that the sign claims that the truck is open until 2:00 a.m. because I have been by before at odd times in the afternoon only to find it closed. Maybe the people were taking a break. In any case, if these late hours prove to be true, this will be good news for me as I sometimes get late night cravings, and others might appreciate having more late night options too. I unfortunately didn't write down the telephone number, but I will the next time I'm at the strip mall.

                              2. re: foodiefound
                                williemac Sep 5, 2007 12:31 AM

                                i live in the neighborhood...the pizza is ok...not a lot of character in the crust/sauce/pizza...the folks are great, and the neighborhood is welcoming...my kid likes the pie!

                              3. s
                                skechada Sep 4, 2007 02:09 PM

                                Torchy's on S, 1st, about a mile south of Riverside. It's blown any other trailer I've been to out of the water.

                                I'd highly recommend their steak fajita taco. It's incredible.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: skechada
                                  williemac Sep 5, 2007 12:35 AM

                                  the torchy's truck on s. firsr is my favorite...and they have a place on south lamar in the little convenience store across from changuito's, a little north of the spoke... the pork with green chiles is superb!

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