Mayra’s Mexican-style Hot Dog (Salinas)
Recently a reporter asked me why I was so passionate about eating at the catering trucks in Salinas. Besides the pat “faster, better, cheaper” answer, I also explained that the taco truck experience goes beyond the quality of the food to the social interaction with the proprietor. This is personal chef-ing, making it “your way” attention from these roving
kitchens. Usually you’re speaking directly to the individual who makes your food, and if there is a separate order-taker, he/she is usually the owner who will make sure you’re satisfied. As the customer, I can readily express my appreciation to the cook or correct any missteps in a direct feedback loop. And even when I choose to be silent, I am still aware of a pair of eyes watching me from the other side of the window as I tuck into my food.
Perhaps no one exemplifies this more than Mayra’s owner/operator, Digna Hernandez. Since she’s standing inside her truck’s shadow, the photo suffers from poor lighting. But I think it captures her warm spirit. She’s passing me my hot dog with those magical culinary hands.
When she took my hot dog order, she reached out from her truck window to count off on her fingers, “ketchup, mostaza, mayonesa, cebollos, tomates?” I asked for all of them, and then added a drizzle of the self-serve thick avocado-tomatillo salsa of the day from the molcajete and a few pieces of zanahoria en escabeche on the side. Here’s the photo of my bacon-wrapped hot dog with the works.
Image of one fully-dressed dog (half an order) -
Grilled until nicely charred and the bacon crisp, the hot dog was nestled in a toasted, soft bun. Rather ingenious were the small slits cut in each pole of the dog to attach the strip of bacon to keep it in place. Digna’s light hand with dressing the hot dog was very different from the loaded style down the street and I think this one has won me over.
And, I was surprised when she handed me a second foil-wrapped dog to take home. Apparently these are two to an order, such a deal for $3!
Mayra's Catering truck
Corner of Division Ave. & East Market Street, west of Sanborn Road
Hours: 1pm to 9pm (but often gone earlier
Earlier thread on Mayra’s Catering Truck –
Tuesday afternoon I brought David and Cyrus here with plans to introduce them to Mexican-style hot dogs. But sadly, she didn't have any hot dogs prepped. However, Mayra's has a new business card, shown here,
Best to call ahead if you have your heart set on one.
But no matter, I also wanted them to try her gorditas estilo Zacatecanas. Being a foot taller than me, David peered into the kitchen's window to watch Digna work, and asked, "are those costillas?" Nodding, she said, "de res", and said she'd put them in one of the gorditas. Again, she apologized that we would have to wait for the made-to-order gorditas, fat masa cakes to cook on the griddle. To tide us over, she offered us some complimentary taquitos, made with tiny handmade tortillas, and asked if "mantaraya" would be alright. It took me a while to figure out what she was saying, and fortunately, mantaraya or skate wing had just come up here in another thread, so I finally recognized the word. Here's the photo of the taquito topped with braised skate wing, http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1006/533646847_9159de2cb4.jpg?v=0 .
The fibers of mantaraya reminded me of dried scallop (conpoy). It was stewed with soft onions, green beans, sweet peppers, and a little tomato. Digna recommended a squirt of lime. The combination with the tender handmade tortillas offered up the delicious warmth and gentle kindness of a mother's love.
And then the gorditas came out . . . slit to make a pocket and stuffed with smoky charred beef. The fatty, chewy and rich flavor seemed like shortrib meat to me, cut off the bone in thin cross-grain strips like kalbi then grilled. We doused one with the green salsa and the other with red, and both were dynamite. I couldn't pick a favorite. She also made one with chicharrones en chile, bloated pork cracklings swollen from a masterful red chile sauce. These had a silky, slightly chewy texture, leading Cyrus to comment that they seemed like pure texture and not meat from an animal.
With two canned drinks, our total bill for this feast was $8.
Mayra's works this corner Monday through Friday, 1pm to 9pm.
In another thread, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/406330#2637885 , Jim Leff said, "They're trying to purge the vendors near me, too. That's what happens when 1. the restaurant food disappoints, 2. street vendors appear to fill the gap, and 3. the latter takes business away from the former.
The explanation for lots of things that bug me in this world is "hey, that's capitalism." And then when capitalism does us all a favor, all of a sudden the powers that be want to start legislating exceptions....sigh....
My Google Map of local street food is starting to get way out of control, alas. I feel like I'm juggling lots of plates while the band plays Sabre Dance. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/388653"
re: Melanie Wong
We're not entirely sure what the hot dog situation is, as the three of us couldn't quite figure out her explanation and we moved on to other treats. It might be a day of the week thing as she was naming off days of the week. We were there on a Tuesday and no hot dogs, but I can't say for sure.
While we were there the truck got a crushed ice delivery. A man with a pick-up truck bed full of crushed ice under a tarp pulled up and loaded four shovelfuls or so where needed. He was reluctant to speak to me, and I couldn't get his name or number. Digna's husband said that he has a route from Watsonville to Monterey delivering ice to taco trucks/catering vehicles like this one at their sites. It's a mobile commissary service for ice supply, one of the health code areas that some trucks allegedly had trouble complying with, so I was happy to see that this need is being met.
re: Melanie Wong
This has become my favorite truck. I think that I should put myself in her hands next time and just ask her to make something that she wants me to try. Now, we called them costillas because David saw some big bones, but I'm wondering if what we had was suadero, maybe you can check.
Oh, I had told her I would be returning in the evening with mi amiga . . . you can tell her you're late. (g)
Oh, what impossibly great food!
Fortunately the US and Mexico are finally taking steps to reduce the charges that our hard-working people from Latin America have to pay for sending money (remesas) home. People like Digna simultaneously improve the our lives in both Mexico and the US!
re: Sam Fujisaka
Digna has such a lovely manner. She makes short-order type food, but it's not really fast. When you step up to her truck, you're forced to stop a moment to talk with her and feel the love she radiates.
Thanks for your suggestion to photograph the people behind the trucks. Digna is a perfect poster girl, I think.
I'm at home watching Emeril's hot dog episode, which started off with him manning a cart on the street. His stuffed dog with cheddar and bacon didn't look (nor probably taste) as good as Digna's.
Ok, its official....you are making me crazy with these great reports!
I want mine with bacon, tomatillo salsa, cebollas, tomatoes and ketchup (yeah, I know, they'd run me out of Chicago for wanting tomatoes and ketchup, but who cares?)...and zanahorias on the side...will be using your picture to try and ease the cravings until I am down that way (next weekend, I hope)!..