I posted earlier about my disappointing BBQ trek to Big Als. I alluded at the end to the fact that the night turned around though. On my way from Big Al's, I decided to improvise my route back to the hotel. I took Harry Hines Blvd northbound, which I discovered is the southern U.S.' strip club and prostitute capital. Anyway, somewhere amid this entertainment district I noticed what looked like a permanent-building-but-formerly-broken-down-Winnebago along the way with a sign that said "Tacos Los Compadres" above it. The lights were on so I eased my car into the driveway, careful to avoid a trio of hookers, and snagged a couple of $1 Al Pastor tacos. The corn tortillas were a bit soggy, but they were very good tacos.
Lousy BBQ, but decent tacos the night wasnt a TOTAL loss. But then, it happened that phenomenon we call chow magic.
A few homeless encampments up...er...I mean...a few blocks up -- corner of Walnut Hill and Harry Hines to be exact -- I stopped at a red light and noticed an old, dirty van parked in a vacant lot on the corner with an eyecatching warm glow coming from the side. At first I thought maybe it was abandoned and set on fire. But when the light turned green, I eased through the intersection and noticed it was actually a makeshift taqueria, complete with a pretty darned sophisticated Al Pastor rotisserie and griddle, right there attached to the side of the van.
As is always the case, I drove a couple of blocks, contemplated a third meal that evening, and hooked a U-turn back to the van. Thank goodness too. As is my habit, I ignored every shred of common sense, crime-avoidance savvy and concern for food-borne illness and stopped at that van, and was amply rewarded with perhaps the best tacos of my life. I know, I know what does white boy from the frozen north woods know about tacos? Probably not as much as yall, although MSP has a very healthy, burdgeoning Mexican population and we have an awful lot of solid, authentic Mexican cuisine. I think I know a good Al Pastor taco when I eat one.
Back to the van. To make things even more superb, a big bowl of cilantro, vat of lime wedges, containers of sauces and salsa, so fresh they could have just been harvested from a garden adjacent to the abandoned mattresses on-site, were all propped up on an old table next to the van. But best of all, as I was topping the tacos, a nice gentleman set aside my King of All Gringos appearance, stared me in the eye, pointed to a bottle of salsa verde and smiled. "It's hot", he said. It was. Perfect. For a second, I thought I heard angels in the background. (turns out it was just a pimped out Civic with some Beyonce wannabe blaring from the windows) Like magic, I looked back up from the condiments to thank the man and he was gone. (OK...he was still there, but that was for effect). I digress. It was an amazing treat. I don't care if it's Thomas Keller or a couple serving tacos out of a van -- I love great chow made by people who obviously care.
I wouldnt send my friends or family down there at night. But anonymous people like yourselves for whom I dont fear for their safety are open game so get on down there and check it out. That is, if you like excellent tacos and maybe a little adrenaline rush. I'll be back looking for them for sure.
The Taco Van
Harry Hines Blvd and Walnut Hill
Hours: ? (Late nights on weekends I suspect. There was a steady stream of customers, so I'm sure it's there on a regular basis)
Reservations not required