Thursday, April 05, 2012

Food From a Truck-Taco Xpress, Lakeland

If you live in or around a major city, you have mobile food carts. In NY and DC, we had the hot dog carts or trucks, and one would become a connoisseur. "Oh, that one has Sabrett's and grilled onions, but this one has Footlong Nathans and Sauerkraut." Some would be at vacant lots and many would be on street corners, but you knew you were going to get a decent, cheap meal from the mobile vendor.

Then we moved to Florida, land of the Taco Truck. Usually, they're a white utility truck, some are parked in one place, others travel from spot to spot. If they're good, they've got an avid customer base who anxiously await their arrival.

A curious thing when I started at Poly was the white taco truck parked on Highway 98, about a 1/3 mile south of Edgewood Drive. It was the variety that didn't move, had permanent signs affixed to the top and if I passed by at regular meal times, a line of people from the various nearby commercial and industrial establishments. It took a long time to work up the gumption to stop at this taco truck, but I finally did during the second semester I took Spanish.

I was kicking myself that I'd hesitated.


That first visit, not knowing what I was in for, I ordered two tacos. The owner looked at me funny, but quickly filled me order for two El Pastor tacos. Off to campus I drove with my bargain $2.00 dinner.

I got there and understood why he was confused-these were small tacos, two 5" round soft corn tortillas filled with expertly seasoned beef, a little bit of onion, and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. On the side were two lime wedges to squeeze on top. And honestly, they were perfect little appetizer tacos. (I got razzed for making the classroom smell so good, though.)

The next time, a little wiser, I scoped out the menu. It's small, but that's a good thing. Burritos, those tacos, quesadillas, and tortas make up the menu. You have your choice of chicken, el pastor, carnitas, carne asada, and another seasoned pork to stuff these traditional delights. Drinks range from bottled Jarritos, Mexican coke (the kind with pure cane sugar) and canned soda on ice, as well as chips.

I don't even mess with the chips, because whatever I get will be more than enough for a meal. In fact, their burrito is huge and frequently becomes two meals-or I split it with a coworker. Your mileage may vary, but Ed finds the burrito a good hungry-man sized meal. The homemade tortilla is stuff with more than a half pound of those meats, lettuce and tomato. On the side, you can get sour cream and one of their sauces.

The sauces? They're homemade. The red has a wonderful bite to it and they sell bottles for those who become addicted. The salsa verde is a nice slightly chunky sauce that isn't as hot, but is just as flavorful.

The only thing on the menu I haven't had is the Torta, and that's because I didn't look beyond Mexican Hamburger on the menu to see that it really has the same well seasoned and chopped meats as all the other dishes. Last month, I was in the mood for one, but he'd sold out of the rolls that it's served on. (Yes, they sell out regularly!).

The quesadillas are the same huge tortillas that get stuffed for the burritos, filled with mexican melting cheese that is more like mozzarella than cheddar (as it should be), but you may have a hard time realizing the cheese is in there for the quantity of meat that is pressed into the quesadilla, too. It comes with one of those sauces-but I tend to get that and a sour cream, then mix them together and spread it on top.

I've lost count of how many people smelled my lunch from Taco Xpress, asked about it, then had to go try some for themselves. This is one of those classic examples of the hidden culinary gems that blow you away. It's homemade, authentic food, simply prepared, priced well, and the bonus is that the owners are so nice, too.

If you're happening down Bartow Road (Hwy 98 South) and you're hungry, don't waste your time rolling through a drive through. Check out this truck and you'll soon be back for more. Trust me.

Oh, y gracias mi amigo para las comidas muy delicioso!

Taco Express on Urbanspoon




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