In July, I wrote a taco truck roundup for our GO entertainment section. With the weather uncharacteristically warm this week, I thought I’d post the story here on the TNT Diner blog. With temperatures expected in the 80s today and tomorrow, this may be your last chance to enjoy the sun while eating a carnitas taco on a picnic bench.
I think the best taco truck around I’ve ever found is La Fondita, in the Lincoln District. I thought the food at Los 3 Hermanos Taqueria on South 12th, pictured above, was bordering on tragic, despite how many people have told me they love the food there. I did find it funny while eating there that a guy yelled his taco order out the window of the neighboring apartment, though.
Click “more” below to see the taco report.
Taco trucks can have dubious reputations, but food lovers know that some of the best Mexican food can be found in dusty parking lots.
The mere mention of a mobile restaurant can lead skeptics of their cleanliness to throw out terms like “roach coach” and “gut truck.” But the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department keeps tabs on taco trucks. The health department told us for previous reports that taco trucks must comply with the same health inspections as restaurants built on concrete. You’ll find the health department permit located on the rear of mobile restaurants, and if you’re in doubt, just ask to see a health department permit and licensing.
For this series, I ate only at taco trucks that have been stationary for many months – figuring they are most likely to stay put because of their devoted clientele. However, because these are restaurants with wheels, they sometimes just drive on to the next patch of asphalt.
Your turn: We didn’t make it to every taco truck in our area for this report. Tell us about your favorite taco truck.
Where: The gravel lot at 3737 S. G St., Tacoma
Payment: Credit cards are OK.
From tortas to carnitas burritos, to chicken tacos and sopita, La Fondita produces some of the best Mexican food in town, an appreciation I’ve developed from dozens of visits. The meats are succulent and tender, the seasoning an enhancer, not the main attraction. Meats are fragrant with garlic and spiked with citrus and onions and heady spices such as cumin and dried, ground chilies.
A chicken torta ($4.99) was a delicious mess of a sandwich. A sturdy grilled bun surprisingly stood up to the sloppy layer of chopped, succulent chicken with a lot of juice, thick avocado slices (an extra charge), a smear of mayo, sliced jalapeños and tomatoes and shredded lettuce. A carnitas burrito was a study in taco truck perfection – tender pieces of roasted pork crunchy from a turn on the grill were a meaty match to the soft layer of beans and garlic-fragrant rice. Whole cilantro leaves, sliced avocado (an extra charge) and diced onions bloomed the thick burrito with flavor.
The scene: Possibly the most pothole ridden parking lot in the entire city, plan on your car turning into a four-wheel moon rover to get your tacos. An overhang with a few picnic benches makes this a year round al fresco taco truck experience.
Los 3 Hermanos Taqueria
Where: Parking lot of the E-Z Food Store at 2728 S. 12th St., Tacoma
Payment: Cash only
Los 3 Hermanos serves up big portions with delicious, edible garnishes like roasted whole jalapeños and unctuous pickled carrots (some of the best I’ve had). The disappointment comes from shallow flavor – I got the sense that garlic and salt aren’t on the shopping list for Los 3 Hermanos. Carne asado tacos ($2 for two) had the slightest amount of chew, but were underseasoned and flat. The pastor (spicy pork) tacos ($2 for two) held none of the promised spice, but a squeeze of lime and some verde sauce helped them along. I like that Los 3 Hermanos provides two styles of fresh sauce – red and green – but I relied too heavily on them to deliver flavor to the food. The carnitas and pollo sopes ($1.80 each) were tender cuts of meat, but also needed help from sauce and lime. A chicken tamale ($1.50) was tender, moist and sweet, but the chicken interior failed to deliver the flavor that is a hallmark of a good tamale.
The scene: Expect lots of noise and activity at this taco truck. On my visit, a neighbor yelled his food order down to the truck from a neighboring apartment window.
Taqueria La Sinaloense
Where: 4002 Center St., Tacoma
Payment: Cash only
The yellow school bus color of the truck makes Taqueria La Sinaloense easy to find.
While the meat at La Sinaloense is extremely flavorful, tinged with garlic and scented with heady spices, the meats have a chewiness that may bother many palates. A carnitas taco (99 cents) was the best meat of the three sampled. The shredded pork was crispy fried and juicy. The adobada taco (99 cents) was chewy and marbled with fat, to the point of being inedible. Mulitas ($3.90 for two) – grilled corn tortillas stuffed with meat, jack cheese, onions, cilantro and avocados – would have been delicious with the carnitas, but the carne asada was dripping with grease (the kind that pours down your arm) and the meat was far too chewy. If La Sinaloense used better cuts of meat or cooked the meat longer the way cheap cuts of meat need to be cooked, I’d be a repeat customer.
The scene: Expect to be greeted at the order window by the thousand-watt smile of the 13-year-old son of the truck owner. His cousins also take orders while the parents work the grill.
Taqueria La Carreta
Where: 12413 E. Meridian Ave., Puyallup
Payment: Credit cards, cash
This is the meat lovers taco truck. A pork carnitas burrito ($5.79) with sour cream and avocado was stuffed with crispy roasted pork, a layer of salty refried beans and garlicky rice. A carne asada burrito ($5.79) came loaded with grilled beef that had a smoky char and crispy edges – perfect. The burritos are huge, but not reliant upon filler rice and beans. Both burritos had a healthy serving of well-prepared meat.
Chicken tacos ($1.96 for four) were succulent and scented with spices, but too little meat left me wanting. Better stick with the burritos if grilled meats are what you like about taco trucks.
The scene: No problems with driving up and parking and eating, but there’s also a picnic bench for dining.
Los Amigos Taqueria
Where: 11802 E. Meridian Ave., Puyallup
Payment: Credit cards, cash
You can eat outside at a row of picnic benches, or go inside to dine at Los Amigos. The taco truck has stools for a dozen or so diners, making this a good taco truck stop when the rain returns. A carne asada ($4.59) burrito was loaded with marinated beef with a crispy grilled char. The beans are lightly salted here, and the garlic much more mild than other taco trucks. Chicken tacos ($1.20 each) were juicy and full of flavor, a mountain of meat could use another tortilla or two – a real bargain for the amount you get. A torta with carnitas ($4.49) was a bit on the dry side, but made more palatable from sliced avocados and a swipe of mayo.
The scene: A few steps away from the taco truck is a beer garden at the adjacent convenience store. Enjoy a cerveza with your taco and dine alfresco on the beer garden deck.