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Charlotte taco trucks - Have you ever?

lynnlato Nov 24, 2008 04:39 AM

I just read a piece in The Charlotte Observer about Charlotte City Council trying to establish new regs for food vendors who park and sell food outside of uptown (or something like that).

What do they serve? Is their food any good? It got me thinking, are these taco trucks subject to health inspections?

Just curious whether anyone knows anything about these trucks. I see them all over town.

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  1. southernitalian RE: lynnlato Nov 24, 2008 05:49 AM

    I heard that on NPR this morning and thought, where the heck are they? I never see them. My husband works in construction and he says he rarely sees them. All of the suddent they're a big deal. Who knew? According to the report, they are not inspected or regulated at all.

    2 Replies
    1. re: southernitalian
      ickymettle RE: southernitalian Nov 24, 2008 06:11 AM

      You'll see a bunch set up around construction sites downtown. When I worked downtown, there were always a couple right outside my office. I never tried them, though. There are also some that set up along South Boulevard, and probably Central Avenue as well (places with large latino populations).

      1. re: ickymettle
        Tee RE: ickymettle Nov 24, 2008 06:35 AM

        I started a thread in May 07 regarding all the taco trucks I saw on South between Tyvola and Sharon, while driving to The Wachovia (golf, not bank) I asked if anyone had tried one and received zero response. I was with three friends who wouldn't go to one if they were paid to do so....
        I haven't tried one but I don't live in Charlotte.
        As to the health inspection issue, well, eat it anyway.
        If they were making their clientele sick they would quickly be out of business.
        I realize we are in the US but if you would eat street food abroad why let a slip of paper stop you from potentially a wonderful ethnic meal??

    2. h
      HungryGrayCat RE: lynnlato Nov 24, 2008 07:21 AM

      I haven't eaten at any here only because they're not convenient but back in the SF Bay Area, taco truck food was a staple of my diet. I wouldn't hesitate to eat at one assuming it looks reasonably busy and fairly clean.

      1. GodfatherofLunch RE: lynnlato Nov 24, 2008 07:36 AM

        I have eaten at the truck outside of the Tire Kingdom store on South Blvd. It is hard to believe a truck could produce food that delicious. I had a few different tacos all excellent, different salsas and hot sauces were available. People were lined up for this food so they are doing something right. I don't know about the health inspections but folks kicking the bucket would be bad for business. Most of the clientele was latin so they know good from bad when they taste it.

        11 Replies
        1. re: GodfatherofLunch
          southernitalian RE: GodfatherofLunch Nov 24, 2008 07:46 AM

          My only hesitation to eating anything from them is it just doesn't seem fair to the bricks and mortar restaurants which are already struggling, which was the whole point of the report.

          1. re: southernitalian
            Tee RE: southernitalian Nov 24, 2008 08:29 AM

            what's unfair about a taco truck? They have overhead too and they pay someone to "rent' the space where they park. And if sarahUNC is correct, and I believe she is, then they are inspected.
            Is an ice cream truck unfair because the grocery sells ice cream too?
            Is a roadside farm truck selling sweet potatos unfair because the farmer's market sells sweet potatos?
            Are the guys selling shrimp in the parking lot of Pawleys Island Hardware unfair because you can buy shrimp at a fish market in Murrel's Inlet?
            Is a hot dog uptown cart unfair because you can go to Matt's Chicago Dog? I could go on but I won't.
            It is odd that we are having this discussion as only this morning (after hearing on WFAE a story about taco trucks) I told my 11 year old daughter that I wish we had a taco truck nearby.......

            1. re: Tee
              southernitalian RE: Tee Nov 24, 2008 02:06 PM

              Then why is it a news item? I heard that "area restaurant owners" were against them so it must be hurting them. Incidentally, I'll try anything once. I just never see them in Charlotte. And GFL, I lived in NYC for 5 years and used to buy bags, watches and lots of other things from those guys. I was a broke 20-something trying to look cool on a budget. I realize now I wasn't fooling anyone. If I see one of these trucks and I'm hungry, I'll try it.

              1. re: southernitalian
                GodfatherofLunch RE: southernitalian Nov 24, 2008 02:57 PM

                Did you have a Stuey Viton bag or a Molex watch. Some how for a very long time in almost all cultures street food and restaurants have been able to co exist. I think there is a place for both.

                1. re: GodfatherofLunch
                  southernitalian RE: GodfatherofLunch Nov 25, 2008 05:07 AM

                  I had a Jensport backpack. My friend had a Rolax. Swear.

            2. re: southernitalian
              GodfatherofLunch RE: southernitalian Nov 24, 2008 09:18 AM

              Point well taken. Back in the day when GFL worked in Manhattan I never bought anything from the guys selling knock off rolex watches or polo shirts as I thought they might be unfair competition to brick and mortar stores. Plus the stuff was crap.
              The food trucks do have their own overhead and it really is a different business model. I don't see them putting any real restaurants out of business, well maybe fast food.

              1. re: GodfatherofLunch
                HungryGrayCat RE: GodfatherofLunch Nov 24, 2008 09:24 AM

                Again I'm bringing an SF reference here but the trucks in the Bay Area sometimes had a brick and mortar restaurant also. They would do the bulk of the prep there and sell a more "fast food" type menu in the trucks.

                1. re: GodfatherofLunch
                  HungryGrayCat RE: GodfatherofLunch Nov 24, 2008 09:36 AM

                  Either way, I don't have a problem with the trucks.

                  1. re: GodfatherofLunch
                    Tee RE: GodfatherofLunch Nov 24, 2008 12:12 PM

                    GFL, we can only hope!

                    1. re: GodfatherofLunch
                      lynnlato RE: GodfatherofLunch Nov 24, 2008 01:39 PM

                      Ummm, me and my friends used to buy those fake Gucci watches when we went on shopping trips to nyc from PA - HA!!

                      I love that many of you enjoy these trucks. I will give them a try and report back! There is one regularly parked on Providence Road south of I-485, going towards Waxhaw. But I think I'll hit one on South Blvd instead - like some of you said, if there are people waiting in line chances are its a sign of good food.

                  2. re: GodfatherofLunch
                    mikbre RE: GodfatherofLunch Dec 20, 2009 07:34 PM

                    I typically eat at one in Huntersville off of Statesville Rd. It’s great, a pretty good deal, and the guy holds excellent hours. He’s usually there from 8-8.

                    I also eat at a gourmet stand in downtown Charlotte called Harvest Moon Grille. It’s very good. If you haven’t tried their stuff yet, seek them out. I’ve had anything from a pork tortilla (they raise their own pigs) to pâté with fingerling potatoes.

                    I’m definitely getting into this locally and I’ve enjoyed reading about the growth of the taco truck trend nationally. So, I made an iPhone application called Taco Loco http://tacoloco.info/ to help people find, rate, and share spots. I hope it’s of help to some of my fellow Charlotte area people...

                  3. s
                    sarahUNC RE: lynnlato Nov 24, 2008 08:15 AM

                    Yes, they are subject to health inspections (as a "food stand"). To check out your favorite establishments health grade (in Mecklenburg county), go to: http://mecklenburg.digitalhealthdepar...

                    They also have to be permitted, which means that the health department has to check them out for basic amenities such as adequate lighting, proper handwashing equipment, and appropriate plumbing.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sarahUNC
                      mcap RE: sarahUNC Nov 24, 2008 11:15 AM

                      Yup, they absolutely are permitted and inspected by the county.

                      And they are awesome. I hit the ones on South Blvd quite regularly. The tacos are as authentic as you can get - chicken, pork, and even beef tongue with fresh cilantro, real corn tortillas, and a variety of hot sauces/salsas. Cheap, good eats.

                    2. q
                      quazi RE: lynnlato Nov 24, 2008 02:03 PM

                      I have eaten at a truck on central avenue. I think several park in that area to cater to late night club goers. I was hopeful that one of the area tacquerias would be open but they were not and I saw two-three trucks open. The food was quite good if messy. Can't remember the intersection but I has cabeza, carnita and lengua if my memory serves me right.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: quazi
                        Chocolate Toe RE: quazi Nov 24, 2008 02:28 PM

                        I think the argument, and why it's been in the news, is they are trying to make them shut down early - like 9pm. Whereas the trucks want to stay open later. To cater to the drinkers and whatnot needing late night.

                        1. re: Chocolate Toe
                          GodfatherofLunch RE: Chocolate Toe Nov 24, 2008 02:59 PM

                          It helps to be a bit drunk for cabeza and lengua

                          1. re: GodfatherofLunch
                            birgator RE: GodfatherofLunch Nov 24, 2008 03:02 PM

                            Only one I ever saw was late one Sunday night between Old Statesville Road and Sugar Creek. Had pastor and lengua, super cheap, super delicious. Looked since, and haven't seen them again. A lovely alternative to the food in the area.

                      2. a
                        angelspice RE: lynnlato Nov 24, 2008 06:04 PM

                        actually, my favorite truck is found south on Highway 16 / Providence Rd toward Waxhaw, just into Union County. It is on the west side of the road I believe. You will notice a Goodwill tractor trailer in the same lot. I love their huge burritos and fabulous red sauce.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: angelspice
                          lynnlato RE: angelspice Nov 25, 2008 02:17 AM

                          This is the one I always see. It's there every day.

                          It is interesting that the city seems very accepting of the hot dog carts but are focused on limiting business hours, etc for the taco trucks. The city argues that the trucks are found throughout the city(not just uptown) and therefore when they are serving late they disturb the surrounding residential areas. But, you know, we have very few restaurants that stay open late. Even uptown. Waffle House being the exception - blech.

                          1. re: lynnlato
                            southernitalian RE: lynnlato Nov 25, 2008 05:10 AM

                            I heard in the report on NPR this morning that not only are they staying open late and creating noise but also generating a lot of trash. Can't say whether either is true because I never see them.

                            1. re: southernitalian
                              HungryGrayCat RE: southernitalian Nov 25, 2008 06:02 AM

                              Welp, the City Council put the smack down on them last night. More regulations coming...it's in today's Observer. (It is odd to me that hot dog carts can still operate 24-hrs a day.)

                              1. re: HungryGrayCat
                                sarahUNC RE: HungryGrayCat Nov 25, 2008 08:37 AM

                                Well, it's no secret that Charlotte is not so immigrant friendly. I don't doubt this is an extension of Sue Myrick's influence.

                                If the issue were with just one place being loud and leaving trash, their permit should be yanked. I just don't see that everyone taco stand is problematic.

                                Here in Durham, they don't seem to cause enough of a problem to warrant a city council discussion. Durham, however, is not Charlotte when it comes immigrant operated businesses.

                                1. re: sarahUNC
                                  southernitalian RE: sarahUNC Nov 25, 2008 08:54 AM

                                  Such telling political and social commentary from a city that requires a hyphen not withstanding, it still doesn't answer my question. It was bricks and mortar restaurant owners and not Mrs. Myrick who originally started the protest. I'm just trying to understand why.

                                  1. re: southernitalian
                                    mcap RE: southernitalian Nov 25, 2008 09:01 AM

                                    It was not bricks and mortar restaurant owners that started the issue - it was eastside neighborhood associations.

                                    They were complaining that these taco trucks were operating late, making noise, and causing littering and loitering. There argument was that this was bringing down property values and causing too much traffic.

                                    The NPR report piggybacked off this and went and asked local businesses how they felt about these trucks, and the only ones to complain were restaurants due to new competition in the area.

                                    1. re: southernitalian
                                      sarahUNC RE: southernitalian Nov 25, 2008 09:42 AM

                                      I must have missed which hyphenated city you are referring to...

                                      What is it you are trying to understand, specifically? Why brick and mortar restaurants are protesting?

                                      Whether or not Charlotte politicians have started a protest does not mean that their influence is not felt. Such anti-immigrant attitudes pervade the community, which is comprised of neighborhood associations and brick and mortar restaurants.

                                      It seems to me that where there is no logical reason as to why one business is being targeted while similarly situated ones are not, the reason probably lies in what is not so logical and obvious. If a community wants immigrants out of town, they will find a way to do it. If the restaurant owners are among those who think illegal immigrants are taking away jobs/revenue, etc., they will find some way to voice their concerns. Taco trucks owned by immigrants are an easy target. I somehow don't think it would be a problem if they were operated by non-hispanics.

                                      1. re: sarahUNC
                                        lynnlato RE: sarahUNC Nov 25, 2008 09:58 AM

                                        I can assure you that restaurant owners are immigrant-friendly (generally speaking) - restaurants here couldn't operate without them. I agree with you that they seem to have been unfairly targeted since hot dog carts are allowed to operate and are not subject to these silly restrictions. I can tell you that those hot dog carts can be a nuisance too - I stayed at The Dunham uptown and there was a cart on the corner in front of the hotel. At about 2:00 a.m. there was a large crowd buying hot dogs and loitering out in front of the hotel and it was very loud.

                                        McCap is right - it was neighborhood associations that first complained.

                          2. j
                            Jibe RE: lynnlato Nov 25, 2008 09:08 AM

                            There used to be a truck, Tacqueria Rubio, I think, that I'd pass at the corner of Nations Ford Rd. & Arrowood Rd. Hasn't been there in a while. The tacos were great. I tried their Cubano sandwhich once & really liked it. The 2 ladies that worked the truck were always nice, and the business was steady. I've tried another that I've seen on S. Boulevard next to the Mexican bakery. Good food there too. I've eaten there plenty of time, and never been dissappointed, never gotten ill.

                            I agree with the other posters, if the food was bad, they'd be out of business. They also do provide a service to a lot of guys at the construction sites, who have very short lunch periods.
                            I say, let 'em be. They are fledgling restauranteers, the food is good & cheap. I say don't hesitate. Stop by one & give it a try.

                            What's next, shut down the church & PTA bake sales? Only if they speak Spanish!

                            1. The Chowhound Team RE: lynnlato Nov 25, 2008 01:48 PM

                              Folks, please try to keep the discussion here about the chow at your local taco trucks. If you've got recommendations for where and when to find trucks worth eating at, that would be great.

                              The moral issues of eating at taco trucks (like whether they're fair or unfair, etc) and policy/zoning issues are off topic for a regional board and would be better suited to Not About Food.

                              1. b
                                BDM1 RE: lynnlato Dec 6, 2009 05:18 PM

                                I've stopped at almost every taco truck I can find - street food is street food - you roll the dice and take your chances. Sometimes I stop even if I've already eaten just to grab a Mexican coke (still made with cane sugar) and chat with the owners of the truck.

                                They are mostly around Central Ave. Albemarle/ South Blvd/Etc. The truck on Providence is great - really nice people.

                                The trick with these places is to observe how they store and handle the non-cooked items. Anything coming off the flat top steaming hot into a fresh hot tortilla is amost always ok - if the salsa taste like they might be fermenting (especially in the summer) be careful.

                                Remember - you can always ask for just lime/cilantro/onion - it's more authentic anyway. You can also brown bag a Bohemia and let the alcohol kill the marginal microbs.

                                Most of the time they aren't as bad as the slimey lemons you get with your sweet tea at teh anglo places!

                                Come on - go for it - what's the worse that can happen. . . . :)

                                1. Naco RE: lynnlato Dec 7, 2009 10:10 AM

                                  My understanding is that food trucks in NC have to have a fixed kitchen that they use as a commissary, so many taco trucks are actually mobile branches of brick and mortar taquerias. I've eaten at a bunch at various flea markets and at La Fiesta del Pueblo in Raleigh, and have always gotten good food without any GI distress or other problems that people tend to worry about.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Naco
                                    BDM1 RE: Naco Dec 7, 2009 05:41 PM

                                    See - now you are taking all the fun out of this . . . . :)

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