A many of my regular readers know, I’ve got a regular tradition of going on an annual “Death March”, in which I and a bunch of friends pick some random large US city (New York, San Francisco, and Chicago in previous years), pick a nice walking route through it (usually around 20 miles), and spend a day walking and eating our way through the city (you don’t feel too guilty about stopping for a hot dog, pizza slice, or taco if you’ve been walking 20 miles!). One of the challenges is that many large cities, particularly in business areas, can have large stretches that don’t have a lot of takeout food, or if they do, the places require some advanced scouting. So this last weekend, we did an exploratory trip looking for more stops on next month’s Boston Death March. So that’s how we found ourselves wandering around Berkeley Street in Boston’s South End, stumbling upon El Triunfo.
And now it’s on to San Antonio, where I joined Carol partway through a conference. The day I arrived in San Antonio, Carol was off at a BBQ and rodeo hosted by the conference, which started too early for me to join in. So my first act after arriving in San Antonio was to drive up to the Boardwalk on Bulverde food court, a rather substantial cluster of food trucks, for some food truck action…
…and learned that sometimes I need to research things better. The Boardwalk isn’t open except Thursday through Sunday. So I had to find someplace else nearby for a food truck fix. Luckily, just over a mile away was Erick’s Tacos on nearby Nacogdoches Road, so I headed on over to check out their fare…
So, the morning of May 11th, we officially embarked on the 2012 Austin BBQ tour. But I’ve found that it’s best not starting your day beginning with a bunch of barbecued brisket and ribs; despite the fact that most of the day was going to be dedicated to eating large quantities of meat, we both decided that it would be a good idea to start things out with some breakfast.
And Austin has a rather good breakfast taco scene going on, particularly since it’s a town that already has a large population of taco joints and taco trucks. The previous night’s stand, Torchy’s Tacos has quite the breakfast menu, for example, as does Maria’s Taco Xpress over on South Lamar (we’ll get back to Maria’s in a few posts, I promise!). But between our hotel and our first BBQ joint (JMueller) was a fairly simple Austin taco joint: Flaco’s Tacos (aka “El Flaco”, as it is still named on some of the signage).
Still no rest for the weary. After getting back from my Dayton Trip (which was right on the heels of my Chicago trip), it was time to repack the suitcase, grab my appetite and a fresh CF card, and head off to Austin.
In what’s becoming an annual tradition, several of us from TivoCommunity.com descended on the Austin area for several days dedicated to eating, both BBQ and Food Trucks (of which the greater Austin area has plenty of both).
Carol and I arrived a day before most of the attendees, which gave us an opportunity to start sampling food trucks a bit early. From the airport, we headed to South 1st Street in the SoCo (“South Congress”) and decided to indulge in Torchy’s Tacos.
As I mentioned in my review of Taqueria La Guadalupana, Manchester is definitely on the upswing when it comes to Mexican food, with all sorts of good places opening up over the last few years. One of the more recent, and more delicious, ones is El Rincon Zacatecano.
Located across the street from Verizon Wireless Arena, El Rincon is in a somewhat subtle storefront that used to hold several other businesses (the last two I remember were Dave’s Cosmic Subs and Hollywood Subs, and I know there were several before that). With that many turnovers, it’s one of those locations that I’m tempted to label a “cursed location”, but El Rincon has been there well over a year now, and it seems to be doing well.
After a morning spent looking at the most excellent native art collections at the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix, as well as having a quick trip over to Wes Bolin Plaza to look at the various memorials, we decided that we needed a quick lunch.
Luckily, Phoenix has the same, healthy taco truck economy that I’ve come to expect from any major Southwestern city.
Easy to miss the place, since you can’t directly see the truck from the street without eagle eyes, since they’ve ensconced it in several blue tarps to make a seating area of a few rickety tables and chairs (as well as a place to get out of the sun). The truck itself makes one wall of the dining area, so you wander up to the window and place your order, and then hang out and relax as they assemble it…
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!
After finishing up at the Eastside Drive-In food carts, a few of us headed downtown to check out Austin’s Sixth Street nightlife, grab a few drinks, and check out a few more food carts. One of the places I had actually gotten several recommendations for was only a brief detour off of our Sixth St forays: Chi-Lantro Korean Taco BBQ Truck was set up for the night at 5th and Colorado. I don’t know exactly when they became common (I’ve been hearing about Kogi in LA for several years now, for example), but the Korean Taco truck has started to become a serious mainstay of the street food scene. And while ethnographically odd, it’s actually a combination that makes a fair bit of sense, with the nice spicy and savory, but not always conveniently packaged for street dining Korean food meets up with the handy tortilla to make something that’s just about perfect for street dining…
After getting our fill on South Lamar, we moved downtown to West Sixth Street to search out some more food carts. Our primary stop was The Peached Tortilla (which labels itself “Austin’s Fusion Taco Truck”), which sports a very expansive menu of tacos, primarily using Asian-inspired dishes and ingredients. Highlights include pad thai, banh mi, chicken satay, catfish, szechuan veggies, and more, as well as a healthy assortment of sliders (including crab cakes!).
One of the things I always enjoyed about the Phoenix area was the vast array of businesses that cater to the Mexican population. Unlike most places I’ve lived, it’s relatively easy to go out and get some fresh masa, a wide variety of chile peppers, tamales, and the like, with most neighborhoods having either a grocery store that caters to the Mexican market, or at least does a good job of carrying Mexican staples and tortillas from some local bakery. However, on my last trip through Mesa, Arizona, I noticed that Ranch Market, the long-time Phoenix Mexican-themed supermarket, had now opened a location in Mesa, so I decided to go in and check it out, since I hadn’t been to Ranch Market in a while.