Thursday, June 21, 2012

Taco trucks revisited

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 9:38 AM

A taco plate from Taqueria los Poblanos.

One day, taco trucks were something New Orleanians only heard about from other cities. Then Hurricane Katrina hit and suddenly they were everywhere, slinging fast taqueria fare in the parking lots of destroyed pharmacies and gas stations and moving around to wherever recovery work was heating up.

They simultaneously catered to the palates of the many Latino laborers who arrived right after the storm and filled the void for hot food left by flood-ruined restaurants in the harder-hit parts of town. They were also a small blessing for foodies who had long complained that the city ran short on authentic Mexican cooking. They became a symbol of the post-Katrina era, their images lampooned on Carnival floats and their offerings surveyed by Gambit and others.

Reactionaries on the Jefferson Parish Council outright banned them in 2007, but even in New Orleans it eventually became harder to find one as time went on, as if their diminishing numbers were indeed a metric of the city’s recovery.

You can still find a few holdouts, however, including the resilient Taqueria D.F. at the edge of town and Taqueria los Poblanos, which has recently set up more-or-less regular hours between a pair of Mid-City locations. When we were mired in the muck of early recovery work, trucks like these promised a fast, tasty, $5 lunch and today, as a quick break on a busy day, their appeal remains just as strong.

Taqueria DF on S. Claiborne Avenue, near the parish line.
  • Ian McNulty
  • Taqueria DF on S. Claiborne Avenue, near the parish line.

I recommend eating right there, resting your plate on their narrow metal counters, sipping on a curvy bottle of Mexican-made, sugarcane Coke and applying squirts of the various (and reliably incendiary) salsas as needed down the neck of your burrito or across your quesadilla.

Recent visits to Taqueria los Poblanos and Taqueria DF also turned up a meat option I had not spotted at other trucks before, one called buche. The senorita making my torta at Taqueria DF described this as simply “pork,” though its taste and texture were different from the porky carnitas and al pastor meats I usually order. Chopped into a chunky, salty hash, this buche was chewy, but also griddle-crisped, tasting here like bacon, there like chicharrones and then sometimes soft but not necessarily fatty. A little post-lunch research cleared things up: buche is pig stomach. Offal aficionados will want to give it a whirl, though I think I’ve satisfied my curiosity.

A bit of buche pokes out from a torta.

You’ll find Taqueria los Poblanos in front of the Home Depot at 500 N. Carrollton Ave. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on most days before it redeploys about a mile away to the 100-block of S. Broad Street, where it stays until about 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, Taqueria DF has been on the 8800 block of S. Claiborne Avenue (corner of Eagle Street) for years now. It serves from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday except Sunday, when it closes earlier at 4 p.m.

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