Monday, July 26, 2010

Taco Truck Tour

 
It was such a lovely day today. Sunny and warm, staying that way into the evening so that it was my first evening this year without having to don a light jacket. It was a great day to go touring the local taco trucks. This was another tour organized by Sacramento Epicureans Paul. It was meant to showcase the trucks but also bring awareness to a local problem in the City of Sacramento - regulations against food trucks.

When it comes to food trends, one of the biggest nationwide is the increase in gourmet food trucks. Portland has over 400 trucks from simple ice cream to specialized Thai, Vegan, and fried pies. In many cases, chefs have opted to open trucks instead of being confined by leases, hiring, and operating hours that are a part of owning a restaurant. I've mentioned before the blog Vendr.tv which showcases these trucks around the country. But Sacramento, instead of embracing a popular new idea, instead is threatening the existence of food trucks - at least within city limits.

Our guide was Joshua, who has been trying to bring awareness to situation. The City Council has created regulations that make it very difficult for them to operate their businesses in the city, effectively forcing them out. Joshua explains:

video

If you didn't get the video, trucks can only stay in one place for 30 minutes and must move a minimum of a quarter mile each time. Thirty minutes does not give them time to set up, heat the grills, and cook and so made to order food would be impossible.

Who is behind this? Supposedly some low self esteem restaurant owners who seem to think that the trucks in their vicinities would steal some of their business. There are unsubstantiated arguments that the trucks lead to litter and noise. Another argument is that the trucks are unclean.

In reality, the trucks often bring new business into areas. They have to submit to the same health inspections as restaurants. And since they do go 'home' each night to be cleaned and reloaded, they aren't harboring rats/mice nests and other infestations. Many have arrangements with property owners to allow them to be on their sites. So why can't they stay?

These regulations have hampered the existence of any such food trucks in the City of Sacramento. Currently we mostly have trucks specializing in Mexican food or the type of trucks that move around construction sites serving quick burgers and sandwiches. There are a few other types around as well, supposedly, but I've never seen them. Needless to say, these regulations definitely discourage any of the gourmet style trucks that you can find in New York, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and many other cities. I, myself, have an interest in opening a gourmet food truck in the future.


Our tour group met at Taqueria Jalisco at the corner of 16th and C. They were closing but had just made a batch of carnitas for the next day and agreed to sell us some of that. We were making several stops, so I had decided to only do a single taco at each stop. These small tacos ranged from $1 - $1.50 at each site we stopped at, so nice and cheap.


Once the group was gathered and ready we drove to the corner of Northgate and Peralta (one block north of West El Camino). There were two trucks parked here. The first was Tacos Piedad which keeps things simple by only selling tacos. I wanted to try new meats and so I had one with cabeza here. Cabeza is beef cheek, which is super tender and pretty fatty. Not fatty as in bits of fat, but as in melted fat that saturates the tender meat. Good, but I'm a pork lover.


Each truck has a little condiments cubby for you to add cilantro, onion, salsa, lime, etc.



At this same lot was another truck which had a more extensive menu. You could get burritos, quesadillas, tortas, etc. At this one I asked for adobada, which was spiced pork.


The last truck was at the corner of El Camino and Ethan. It was the Tres Hermanas truck and I had been told it had good ceviche, so I ordered a ceviche tostada and a buche taco. Buche is pork belly and it was chewy. Not what I was expecting since I was thinking more in the line of being like bacon. But it was still good and so was the ceviche.


We ended at a brick and mortar restaurant just a block down - Puerto Vallarta, which specializes in seafood. By this time I was too full to order anything more. Joshua had said the baby octopus dish here was good and Kate and her husband ordered that. Out came a sizzling platter of octopus looking like you would be ready to make octopus fajitas. After they cooled down they were enjoyed and I was granted a quick taste. These are definitely worth coming back for. They were well seasoned and grilled with plenty of onions and peppers.


So what are hungry Sacramentans to do to change these stupid regulations? Write your city council representative, as Joshua explains:

video

Hopefully the City Council will see the error of their ways and how much the city is losing out on a fantastic new-but-old business vehicle (pun intended). It's time to change the regulations so we can see these wonderful trucks in Sacramento too.
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