Taqueria trucks bring food closer to the people
Much has been made lately of the food trucks rolling Downtown and East Side streets and some special events. "Food Truck Friday" in Cathedral Square was especially hot this year. And why not, with impressive mobile restaurants like Satellite Crepes and Big Frank's Wiener Waggin regularly rolling to a stop there, diners enjoyed some really good food served from atop wheels.
But Mexican food trucks can be found all over the city, predominately in Walker's Point, Polonia, Lincoln Village and several points a bit farther west. The trucks are extensions of many South Side restaurants, bringing authentic Mexican food closer to the people.
Some of these include Freddy's Taco truck, which is parked outside the new El Rey Family Market, 5200 W. Oklahoma Ave., the Eagles Nest truck on West Rogers Street near Congo Avenue and Las Brasas, which is actually a trailer, on South Cesar Chavez Drive at West Washington Street.
For just over a year, Miguel Leon has run the Taqueria Arandas truck parked on South 6th Street between Orchard Street and Greenfield Avenue. Leon says food truck operators pick their locations carefully.
"This location is a good one. People know where we are and they keep coming," says Leon, who likes everything about operating a food truck.
"I love being in the truck, talking to the people. They love the food, tacos, burritos, tortas, tostadas. People call the number on the truck to order, pick up their food, eat in the car or take it home. Or they'll just eat outside, even in the rain. When you're hungry, you're hungry," says Leon.
Leon is in his truck from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day. They close only on July 4 and Christmas. But if people can't find a Taqueria Arandas truck while they're out and about and get hungry, they can always try one of their two restaurants.
"People can come here or go over there, the food in the truck is the same as in the restaurant," says Leon.
A family business, Leon's nephew Juan operates the Taqueria Arandas restaurant located at 2912 S. 13 St. and his brother Alejandro owns and runs the restaurant at 1531 W. Lincoln Ave., out of which comes the food for the trucks.
Leon says when they run out of something they call the restaurant and it's brought out to the trucks. Taqueria Arandas trucks are also located on South 27th Street near St. Luke's Medical Center, on National Avenue near South 35th Street and on South 13th Street at West Cleveland Avenue.
Taqueria Arandas trucks carry tacos for $1.50, tostadas for $2.75, tortas for $4.50 and burritos for $5. An assortment of meats are available, asada (steak), pastor (pork), pollo (chicken), tripas (pig innards or "chitterling," if you prefer), barbacoa (really tender, steamed beef) and lengua (tongue, which is not exactly a meat, but you can have it anyway).
Guillermo Lopez has worked five years for Cielito Lindo. He often works the truck parked outside Pete's Fruit Market on West Greenfield Avenue near South 17th Street. But when that truck closes in the winter, Lopez either works the Cielito Lindo truck parked on Cesar Chavez Drive near El Rey or in the Cielito Lindo restaurant located at 1300 W. Burnham St. (The other Cielito Lindo is at 739 S. 2nd St.)
"The truck on Chavez Drive is open year-round, except if the temperature is really cold," says Lopez.
Steak tacos and burritos are Lopez's favorite items to make, but there's an assortment of foods on his truck, including tortas and tostadas. Extras, such as sour cream and cheese, are 25 cents each.
Menu items and pricing are fairly consistent across all the food trucks, but there are some differences and some trucks offer specialties. For example, the Taqueria Charrito truck offers the traditional Mexican dish frijoles charros (literally, "horseman, or cowboy, beans") for $1.50.
Taqueria Charrito parks outside the Walgreens at 2625 W. National Ave. Like the others, much of the food is prepped at its home restaurant, El Charrito, 1338 W. Scott St., and sent out with the truck. In addition to the frijoles charros, Taqueria Charrito has tacos for $1.50, quesadillas for $2 and an assortment of drinks from two sizes of orchata to bottles of Jarritos for $1.50 (other sodas cost $1).
Another twist on the taqueria truck menu can be found at Berta's Tamales, which as the name indicates has tamales in addition to tacos, tortas and quesadillas. The Berta's Tamales truck is parked outside a Blue Kangaroo laundromat across from the U.S. Post Office building at South 11th Street and West Greenfield Avenue.
Available at La Poblanta truck is the Gringa, a quesadilla made with pork, Chihuahua cheese and a flour tortilla and sells for $2.50. La Poblanta is parked on West Mitchell Street between South 13th and 14th Streets. Truck worker Gabriel Bargas jokingly shares the origin of the Gringa.
"It's named so after the story of a couple ladies who went to Mexico City and wanted to eat quesadillas, but they didn't like corn tortillas and needed a flour tortilla made for them," Bargas says.
La Poblanta also has tacos for $1.50 and burritos for $4.50. Its home restaurant is Taqueria la Mexicana, 1108 W. Greenfield Ave.
Damiani's, 1408 W. Windlake Ave., has one of their trucks parked on North Holton Street, in front of the now closed Lena's Food Market. Damiani's has nachos supreme, dripping with beans and cheese, for $5.99. They also sell hamburgers for $3, french fries for $1 and Mexican corn on the cob, often served with mayonnaise, for $3.
Miguel Pineda has worked the Damiani's truck for three years. He says they occasionally run out of corn, because it's popular.
"Business has slowed since Lena's closed, for sure. But I still plan to be here everyday, except when there's too much snow," says Pineda.
Who cares about the NorthShore?? Classy people, obviously you don't fall in that category.
Cuz there's no Mexican people in the North Shore? (Except for that awesome restaurant on Brown Deer, right off I-43.) And who cares about the North Shore anyway? Branch out, visit the city.
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