After completing my business trip in Arlington, I had a few hours to kill before I needed to head over to DC for my next meeting. Perusing the normal rating sites on my iPhone, I noticed that one place in Arlington in particular was getting consistently top marks: El Chilango.
The interesting thing here is the El Chilango isn’t in a part of Arlington particularly well known for good food. Located in a residential area at approximately the corner of 14th St N and Quinn Street, approximately equidistant from both the Courthouse and Rosslyn Metro stations, just off of Arlington Boulevard (and a stone’s toss from my brother’s old apartment on Oak St, uphill from the Iwo Jima memorial), El Chilango is a taco truck. Yes, Arlington now has a decent taco truck!
Those folks that know me well know that I love taco trucks, particularly authentic ones (you can read about my Yuma Taco Crawl back in 2009, for example), and I’m always wishing that one will materialize near my home in NH (one hasn’t yet, but we do have a good tamale stand now). So when I find an honest-looking taco truck on my travels, I’ve got to check it out.
Well, walking up to the El Chilango truck, I could already tell this was going to be a good experience, since despite the heavy rain, the area smelled like a taco truck, with all sorts of nice grilled meat smells wafting down the block. As I walked up to the ordering window, I could see the owner (a very friendly guy named Jesus, who really enjoyed chatting with me the entire visit) chopping up some onions and cilantro on a chopping block. And the menu, located on a banner tied to the fence next to the truck, showed that this was an “autentico” taco truck, with the major flavors of taco (each costing $2) being bistec, pollo, chorizo, lengua, and pastor. The drink menu was basically Jarritos, Coke, and Horchatas, making the beverage list nicely authentic as well (although I found out when ordering that they were out of horchata. Darn).
I ended up ordering three tacos, one each of bistec, pollo, and chorizo, and Jesus offered to throw in an extra taco of mixto (a bistec asado and chorizo) if I’d try his pickled pepper and habanero salsa. Go ahead, twist my arm…. So I shortly found myself leaning up on the little shelf on the side of the truck, with a large plate of fresh tacos. Each was served up on a pair of nicely toasted corn tortillas, each meat topped with a mix of freshly minced onion, cilantro, and a small dab of his habanero salsa. Some radishes and lime wedges were also served up on the side.
In short, these were excellent tacos. The meat was tender and well-seasoned, with just enough sear from the grill to give it some smokey flavor and some nice crispness. The salsa was excellent, having a pleasant amount of habanero bite without overpowering the rest of the taco. El Chilango was so good, and so authentic, that I could take Jesus and his truck and drop him off on Calle Ocho in Yuma, AZ, and he’d fit right in with the other taco stands. And do well.
I’ll certainly remember to seek out El Chilango next time I’m needing a lunch in Arlington.