Restaurants & Bars

Salsa de Molcajete and Gordita @ Mayra's Catering Truck, Salinas

Melanie Wong | Jan 21, 200708:33 AM     10

Talking with the proprietors on Monday as they were setting up, I noted the signs posted on the back side of the truck promoting salsa de molcajete and $2 Gorditas. The following day I had a chance to return with an empty stomach to give them a whirl.

Interestingly, the menu offers both "pastor" and "adobada", whereas one or the other is more typical. It also has hot dogs and hamburgers in addition to the antojitos. In the photo below of Mayra's menu, the molcajete can be seen in the glass-enclosed cubby hole to the right. After I got my order, I helped myself to the two kinds of chunky salsa in the case.

Image of Mayra's menu and business side of the truck -

This taco truck, tucked into an alley around the corner from the Teamsters hall, radiates an extra friendliness and warmth. The welcoming proprietress has a lyrical lilt in her voice that makes her that much more charming. She calls out to the customers' children gathered around by name, acknowledging each of them. She was wearing a "Steps to a Healthier Salinas" apron, and I'd read elsewhere that Mayra's was a program participant adding more healthful options to its menu. When she needed change for my bill, the palatero visiting with us volunteered some singles. There's a definite feeling of community spirit here.

Not having asked whether my gordita would be made-to-order, I couldn't help but smile when I caught a glimpse of her molding a ball of masa in the shadows of this mobile kitchen. Then I heard the rhythmic pat-pat-pat followed by the sizzle of the damp masa hitting the hot grill. She tried to engage me in small talk while I waited for my order, but alas, my Spanish skills were not up to the challenge. She assured me that it wouldn't be too much longer and that it would be worth the wait.

That was no empty promise. The bubbly protein of the fried pork crackling turned soft and spongy braised in a complex red chile sauce. Intense and flavorful, it's remarkable that this filling was not aided by a pool of grease. The gordita masa cake itself was dry-grilled, nicely charred yet no oily sheen. It was a bit damp and heavy, however, I enjoyed the gordita very much just the same, especially with the fresh shredded cabbage and chopped cilantro and onions. The two small batch salsas de molcajete shown on the plate in the photo, the lighter-colored one more vegetable-like and savory and a smoky, redder, and more hotly spiced type, were just great to alternate for differing tastes on the palate. As demonstrated in the high quality of her artisanal salsas and the stewy red sauce, this talented woman is clearly a Maître Saucier or whatever the Mexican equivalent of that might be!

Image of Gordita de chicharrones with salsa de molcajete -

The day before, her husband, Guadalupe Ramirez, explained (via their son as translator) that they've worked this spot for seven years and draw many repeat customers. He said that they're here as early as 1pm [note: 4pm is a safer bet in my own observation] and stay until 9pm providing a dinner break for late night workers. He works another job and mentioned that the purchase of the catering truck was more than a year's wages. He and his school-age son help out when they can, making this business mainly his wife's responsibility. She needs flexible and reduced hours, thus it would be difficult to replace the income if they couldn't operate the truck any more. He seemed grim about the prospects of finding a permanent spot in the neighborhood. What struck me though was that he appeared to be more concerned about his customers' fate than his own, saying, "So many count on us to be here, where else can they get food like this at night time?"

For something this fresh, lovingly prepared, and delicious for only $2, I have no idea either.

Mayra's Catering
East Market Street, west of Sanborn Road

Mayra's Guadalupe Ramirez quoted -

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