Street food: In almost every country on the planet, it's cheaper and often better than many similar dishes found indoors.
Taco trucks, or carts, or burrito wagons — just don't call them roach coaches — have long been the king of the streets in many cities. (Sorry, Mr. Hot Dog Man.) Colorado Springs presents no exception, assuming you know where to go.
We didn't know where to go when we decided to engage in this tour de taco — partly inspired by warming weather and our ever-present desire to discover authentic eats — so we reached out to a friendly contact at the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment for a list of all mobile food carts. (Cool, Sweet and Sticky Mobile? Roasty Toasty Corn and Legs Mobile? Be seein' ya soon, fellas.)
After calling some 20 vendors whose business names sounded Hispanic (busted — we were profiling), we bounced the tamales-only outfits and narrowed to a short list, from which we dined at the first eight we were able to find during the times we ventured out. We know we missed a few, one of which moves locations almost daily — if we overlooked your favorite, please post a comment below and tell us where to find it and what's great about it.
Before we begin the roundup, a few general notes on the carts:
• All hours provided are rough. Some carts might be in place a little earlier and stay open a little later, due to weather, foot traffic or other factors. If going early or late, consider calling ahead.
• As for prices, all the trucks range between $1 and $1.50 for tacos — cheap enough, we decided, to not list exact prices below. Other items such as tortas (more like sandwiches) and burritos usually cost around $3. Bring cash for payment and a propina (tip).
• Menus will easily be found on the side of each truck, often with English translation. You can also see our "10 common tacos" list for descriptions.
We aimed to try one of every available taco, which always consisted of a double layer of soft, handmade white corn tortillas, often served with one grilled and hot-as-hell jalapeño, lime wedges, and small plastic ramekins of red and green sauce of generally medium heat. Cilantro and raw white onion bits were usually offered, always at no extra charge.
We've noted our favorite taco from each truck below, and provided information on different regional cooking styles, which don't really seem to differ all that greatly, in our gringopinion. We truly believe you can't go entirely wrong at any of these trucks, but we also can attest that not all carts are equal.
Enjoy your own tour, and don't be afraid of asking total strangers to slip you the tongue (lengua) — we made out just fine.
10 common tacosAdobada — red chile pork
Asada — grilled steak
Barbacoa — shredded beef
Buche — pig stomach
Cabeza — cow head
Chicharrón — pig skin
Lengua — cow tongue
Pastor — marinated pork
Pollo — chicken
Tripitas — tripe, intestines (often pork)
After eating roughly 75 tacos in three days, we can safely say three things.
1. Bring your own plate or Tupperware, because the piles of paper and foam being thrown away ain’t purdy.
2. Taco trucks on the whole are tastier, cheaper and more authentic than many sit-down Mexican restaurants locally.
3. You can find something to satisfy your deepest south-of-the-border craving at any one of them.
They may not do everything well — though Maria Ramos and Lalo Garcia’s El Poblano Mobile comes closest — but with each truck we were lucky to find a new favorite among the choices available (not to mention things we didn’t try, like gorditas and tortas).
Speaking of El Poblano Mobile, we’re reminded that with any competition, there must be a winner; in this case, La Flor de Jalisco and Tacos Junior are close runners-up, but El Poblano Mobile stands tallest in the end. If the contest were simply about vehicular character, EPM would have that covered, and if we just looked at flavor, Ramos and Garcia would win again — their crisp tripitas proved our favorite single taco of the whole journey.