Truck wars, part one

Not all taco wagons are created iguales

What’s in a name? For Tacos Ramirez, at the corner of Stewart and Nord avenues, it’s the owner, Adrian Ramirez.

What’s in a name? For Tacos Ramirez, at the corner of Stewart and Nord avenues, it’s the owner, Adrian Ramirez.

Photo by John Domogma

Does a Chico foodie face a greater challenge than choosing a taco truck? Chico alone has 3,743 by last count, and they all look alike, have similar names and have nearly identical menus and prices. You can always use the proximity principle and go to the closest one. But if you want to sniff out the best, there are signs for the discerning.

I define “taco truck” to mean anything serving Mexican food without table service or traditional tipping (tip cans don’t count), with minimal seating area and an expected outlay of $5-$7. Thus, I include La Cocina Economica, Tacos Mary and their brethren. I know they aren’t trucks, but they have a truck heart—trucks up on blocks, as it were.

The first criterion to be weighed is the name of the place. As regular Coop readers know, I place great value in the name of a restaurant. A name is a window on the soul. See Uriah Heep and Sid Vicious.

The most popular name for a taco truck seems to be the region in Mexico from which the owner came: El Michoacano, Tacos de Acapulco. This calls to me, because it bespeaks an admirable pride of origin. Thou shalt know me by my roots. Michoacan’s food seems a cut above the rest.

One of the most popular truck names is El Grullense, which has been parsed in Internet chat rooms in countless twisted ways, but in fact merely means “person from the town of El Grullo,” in Jalisco. The town must be almost deserted by now, since thousands of its citizens have chosen to move to California and open taco trucks.

The next most popular name seems to be Crazy Taco (or Taco Loco). I find this disingenuous. I have never met the slightest whiff of madness around a taco stand. In fact, in my experience (skip over this next clause if you find cultural stereotypes offensive), Mexicans are the sanest, most grounded of people. Yet I’ve never seen a truck called Sane Taco or Taco Cuerdo.

A digression: While taco trucks are in no way “crazy,” there is a mystery about them, surrounding the aluminum foil. You order a burrito and it comes entirely wrapped in aluminum foil. You eat half the burrito and go to rewrap the leftover half in the same foil, and it’s too small! This torments my friend Max, who loves taco trucks but always comes away distressed by this conundrum.

The next most popular name is some form of Gordo: Tacos Gordos, Gordo Burrito. I’m OK with this, though I always have to set aside my American resentment of fat-shaming. I know Mexican fat isn’t like American fat. Yet, simply for balance, I’d like to see a Skinny Taco truck. Just once.

My favorite names are the ones I can’t comprehend. My favorite in this regard is El Mismo, which shows up on trucks now and then and clearly means “The Same”—but the same as what? The person in the window invariably has no idea.

Props summa cum laude go to The Taco Truck, in the All the Best parking lot. That is so meta. Like naming a movie High School Musical. In this and other ways, TTT is raising the taco truck bar.

To be continued next week …