What pairs well with unseasonably hot Northwest weather? Taco trucks. Usually it’s June or July before we get weather conducive to al fresco burrito dining, but our current stretch means two things: You must put on sun screen and you must go eat a taco outdoors. I have interesting news to report – two new taco trucks have popped up in unexpected South Sound neighborhoods. One is near Fircrest next to the Lowe’s, and the other is in sleepy downtown Orting. There also have been taco truck change-ups in Puyallup and Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood.
Where: 5015 S. Center St., Tacoma (near Fircrest), 253-683-9073
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
The bus: They opened about a month ago. They’ve got the marketing down at this bus – diners will find glossy menus and coupon flyers.
Salsa: Look for a self-serve salsa bar, built right into the side of the truck, with red or green salsa, pickled carrots, radishes and lime wedges stored on ice.
Seating: Covered seating area with two tables.
The eats: The menu is straightforward tacos, burritos, tortas, sopitos, mulitas, quesadillas and meat plates.
I tried: Tacos on one to-go visit were served on double layered warmed corn tortillas with meats that were flavor punched with chili, garlic and lime, but the meats sampled – pork carnitas, steak and spicy pork – tasted dry (tacos priced $1.20 each). The condiments of marinated carrots, two kinds of salsa and a mint were a nice addition to the to-go bag. On a second visit dining in (at the covered picnic tables), the meats were much less dry, but flavor was a tad uneven. A chicken burrito (5.99) was on the thin side and would have been much tastier with more onion and cilantro. A verde sauce added the flavor that was missing. A steak torta sandwich ($5.99) was knock-out good – right up there with the La Fondita taco truck in the Lincoln District, one of my favorite places for tortas and tacos in the South Sound. At Ricos Tacos, the torta sandwich was built on a thin, toasted bun that didn’t look sturdy enough to survive the layers of tender steak, thick sour cream, guacamole, diced onions, cilantro, jalapenos, tomatoes and shredded lettuce. I was surprised that the bun never disintegrated – all the way to the last bite. That’s a mean torta right there.
Taqueria El Rancho (also known as the “Orting Taco Bus”)
Where: 204 Washington Ave., N., Orting
Hours: Open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
Please note: This taco bus is cash only
The bus: Big, white and clunky, this is one of the neat taco trucks – it’s a converted school bus with seating inside. You can order outside from a window, but the interior is fairly roomy. Stainless countertops with a dozen folding chairs provide plenty of room to dine in. This bus looks familiar. I need to do some background research, but I wonder if this is the same El Rancho bus that used to be in the parking lot of Thrift City on 72nd Street?
In Orting? Yes, Orting finally has a taco bus. It’s been the talk of the town the last few months. The bus appears to be family run. You might see the children helping clean the counters or shuttling food back and forth to the mini mart next door. Mom was at the grill on my visit. She gave a warm smile to all her customers.
I tried: Two tacos ($1 each) with fried pork carnitas and spicy pork. I thought both were executed really nicely – the pork was fried on the grill, as carnitas always should be, and the spicy pork tasted garlicky with mild heat, pork juice pooled on my plate as I ate (I never said tacos were good for you). Served on warm corn tortillas and sprinkled with the obligatory cilantro and onions, the tacos here were generously sized. A chicken burrito was oversized, the portion impressive, this is a burrito that will dissolve into a mess unless you hold it precisely vertical. Do not, under any circumstances, try to eat it horizontally – unless you have a change of clothes with you.
Here are two new trucks at familiar locations:
Sonia’s Tacos has moved into the Sixth Avenue lot where Taqueria Las Torres used to be – 2516 Sixth Ave., Tacoma. I asked the woman at the counter what happened to Taqueria Las Torres and she said it’s now at 19th and Martin Luther King Jr. Way (by Ezell’s and Papa Jones). I ordered a trio of tacos – chicken, spicy pork and steak – and thought the meat was quite tasty, fragrant with a kicky dose of heat. The tortillas left an impression - much more tender than what’s offered at competing trucks. I’m a fan. Seating at this taco truck always has been indoors – there are tables inside the old check cashing place adjacent to the truck. But they’ve done some remodeling inside. Diners now can order from inside the building (there’s an order window outside, too). I also noted a flat-panel television in the dining room. It looks as if it’s had a good cleaning. Something odd: the outside menu didn’t have prices listed, except for the menu listing side orders.
In Puyallup, where Mis Chiquititas was in the South Hill neighborhood, there’s a new truck. I found this out because I stopped to order pupusas and the woman there told me she was new to the truck and was no longer offering the Salvadoran pupusas (so disappointing), although the menu on the side of the bus, and the name, are exactly the same. I ordered a trio of tacos – and they were just fine. The truck is now called Puro Sabor, 12413 Meridian Ave. E., Puyallup, 253-375-1221.
Our pledge to readers: Sue Kidd dines anonymously and all meals are paid for by The News Tribune.
MORE TACO TRUCK READING:
My 2011 taco truck map, which I’ll update soon. Note: These are gone, Norma’s, El Rancho and Taqueria Las Torres.
My 2009 taco truck opus. La Carreta and Taqueria La Sinaloense are gone, otherwise it’s accurate.
My favorite taco truck, without fail, is La Fondita in the Lincoln District and it deserves your patronage.