Packed up and ready to head out of town, I made one last pass criss-crossing through the industrial area between Abbott Street and the freeway at lunch time. Not finding any more mobile vendors, I resigned myself to nibbling on a couple cookies during the drive and got on 101 at John Street, a few miles south of my usual getaway route. Barely on my way when from the northbound lane into my visual field emerges a taco truck parked below! Exiting at Market Street, I found the Tacos El Grullense truck snuggled up against the freeway frontage. It's parked across from the Aloha Motel, south of East Market Street on Kern Street's motel row.
Image of Tacos El Grullense truck -
Now towards the end of lunch hour, a handful of contractors trucks lined that side of the street, each with one or two people in the cab munching on tacos. I had one customer ahead of me before I could order my al pastor and carnitas tacos. I asked him whether there were any other catering trucks around here during the day. He pointed across the freeway (generally toward Mister Taco's location) and added, "I always come here, haven't tried the other guy." When I informed him of the possibility that mobile vendors such as this taco truck might be banned from the streets, he was visibly upset. "No! That's crazy, I've been eating lunch with El Grullense for years now. It's here every day for me." In the feud between the SUBA merchants and the mobile vendors, there's an important stakeholder that has been ignored in this debate . . . the consumer.
This truck is here from 11am to 7pm, 7 days a week. It is operated by El Grullense restaurant in Acosta Plaza in east Salinas. If the proposed ordinance is passed, it would need to find a spot off the roadway on private property and hours would be limited to 6pm to 6am in order to not compete with brick and mortar restaurants for lunch business.
Something I picked up from this customer was a new truck taco-eating technique. My companion on the pavement was ordering his tacos one at a time, each prepped "a la minute" to be hot and fresh from first bite to last. And, he helped himself liberally the self-serve salsas, carrots en escabeche, sliced radishes, lemon wedges, and soft braised onions. Our taquero had no problem accommodating him.
Image of Tacos El Grullense truck menu -
Instead of standing on the sidewalk, I enjoyed the luxury of a wooden bench for my perch. As you can see in the photo below, it's next to the ice plant-covered strip separated from the freeway by a chain link fence. Here's the lunch I bought for $2.50.
Image of pastor and carnitas tacos -
The tacos are $1.25 each and when you order them “para aqui” are presented on a paper plate with just the meat, reheated on the grill, and a single roasted jalapeño on the side. I chose my own salsas and garnishes from the self-serve trays. The pastor wasn’t nearly as flavorful as Mister Taco’s, however, here the elusive carnitas was juicy and well-browned as well. Besides the choice of good condiments, the other special thing here is the tortillas. While not deep-fried and crunchy, these have a bit of bubbly browning that gives them a roasted quality and a slight crispness. I was glad that I had mine on the spot to taste the difference. Another time we got tacos “para llevar” (to go), carne asada, cabeza, and carnitas, and the tortillas didn’t show nearly as well.
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