Author Archives: noyen

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it.”

I have a confession to make. It has been over six months since I’ve partaken of our sacrament; the street taco. The economy swept away my job, and with it the desire or monetary means of supporting our scene. I feel bad about it. I haven’t been able to go out and sample the wonderful food on our streets. I haven’t had a chance to check out the Chowtruck. I’ve been self consumed and wrought with doubt, fear, depression, financial problems, and all the things that can happen in a deep and long recession. I know that is has affected many, many, many others in the community too. They probably feel the same way i do. Just looking for a glimmer of hope, and a good feeling.

So, being a “basement” chef myself, i pulled up my sleeves and decided i wanted to cook. I love cooking. There’s nothing better than creating something amazing out of otherwise normal things. So with that in mind, over the weekend i scrapped up some change from the empty growler jug, and went out and bought some of Rico’s homemade tortillas. The tiny ones that are made fresh that you can pick up at the local markets. I picked some onions from the garden. I dug some old hamburger meat from the bottom of the freezer, and i started to assemble bowls of condiments and toppings. I fried up the tortillas quickly on each side in a skillet and spooned on some crumbly burger meat. I also threw some frozen corn into a cast iron skillet and made a bit of a roasted corn salsa type creation. I topped it all off simply with the green onions and some cheese. I wasn’t going for authentic, or trying to replicate what i might find at a taco stand, but just going over my food influences growing up, and how my mother made her version of tacos. I found a quiet place by myself and ate a few. It felt wrong to be doing this alone. I had cooked up all the tortillas and there was plenty of stuffing for more, so i called my mother up to share them with me. We both felt better after. It clicked in me that life can me simple. Life can be a taco. Love can be like a taco. Uncomplicated, enjoyable in it’s simplicity, and can give you the feeling of a warm hug that lingers around long after.

While I still am lowered to that of a 2nd class citizen who has had to move back home and swallow his pride, i still get a real sense of peace when eating a good taco. I hope some luck and opportunities come my way soon, so that i can get back out on the streets and enjoy the tacos and the love all of these hard working people provide. Innovation is happening in the foodie community. People are coming up with new ideas, and new presentations and different twists on street food in our community. It makes me proud to see such changes and to see how that people are starting to come around, and be less afraid, less intimidated by these little palaces of what i like to call “the other soul food”. So to all those out there working hard and cooking up all of this love, I salute you. Our friends from the south have brought us so much and are very much a part of what America is about, and i for one welcome our taco overlords.

So if you can’t go out and buy a taco from one of the dozens if not hundreds of mexican and south american influenced restaurants, markets, and food carts, scrape up some change and make some for you and your friends. It’ll make you and everyone else feel better. If at least, for a little while.

Regards,

noyen / nairb

Rumor Confirmation: “Chow Truck” in Salt Lake is real.

I have yet to try this out myself (being somewhat impossible to do at the moment), but i have heard much chatter around twitter and on food blogs about a new taco truck appearing in parking lots around Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah.

The “Chow Truck” everyone has been talking about.

So I am not here to review this mobile dining experience, but to tell you that, YES, it does exist. That, and you can find out more information about them at their website and follow them on their twitter page to find their location.

I plan on trying everything on the menu as soon as i am back in the area and hopefully get a chance to talk to the people behind this truck as well. It looks interesting to say the least! In the meantime go out and try them yourself and let US know what YOU think of them and their menu. We’ll post your reviews here. We would love to know your experiences and what you think this adds to the street taco scene in Salt Lake. It looks like they are trying to mimic what Kogi Tacos did in LA to light a fire and create a new and trendy, hipster driven clientele.

Meanwhile, taco enthusiast Kelly is reportedly on the case and will have a first impression review of the Chow Truck. We will have it posted here shortly. I am curious what our taco enthusiasts think and we’ll see how they hold up to our beloved traditional taco stands. I am wary of a hipster douche bag over hyping so i hope i am not let down by all the chatter generated around this truck so far. It has been reported that many monocle wearing men in turtlenecks, overpriced REI gear, as well as men in girls jeans and “ironic” mustaches with key chains hanging from their belts are showing up at the seemingly long list of “hip” places to park (Twilight Lounge, REI, Eggs in the City, etc), but we will let the food speak for itself and hopefully get an interview with the owners.

Until then, eat everything like it’s a taco.

Yours truly,

noyen

Taco Travels: Hernando’s Hideaway

Hernando’s Hideaway

http://www.hernandoshideaway.com/

545 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON

1 out of 5 stars

Not that you guys in the Salt Lake area will care, but i wanted to share some of my experiences while traveling looking for work outside of Salt Lake City. We have a LOT to be proud of in Utah. Here’s my take on one of the restaurants i came across in Canada that is touted as “California Style” Mexican food. Can we all collectively roll our eyes? Good.

I’m up in Toronto at the moment with my girlfriend, and had a chance to check out what is considered Mexican food up here in the far north. I have to tell you, it was just sort of edible and if I had kids or was drunk out of mind i might rave about this place. However, it resembles NOTHING that we are lucky enough to eat down south. The dish i ordered was known as “The Mexican Flag”. It consisted of one cheese, one chicken, and one beef enchilada. None of the meat or cheese was impressive. Slathered in the three colors of the Mexican flag, this was served up in a sort of sports bar slash dumpy mexi-diner setting with exposed brick and gaudy colors and iguanas on the walls and furniture. I did not get to try the tacos,  but we’ll see if i get a chance to later on. I could go on about how bad this was, and i’d be more forgiving, but the food was not good and the server was sort of a dick. See, there really aren’t good Mexican food joints up in Toronto. The enchiladas were over-spiced and had something more like gravy than a dry spice  rub seasoning. I understand that Canadians love their poutine, but the same rules should not be applied to Mexican food when it comes to covering things in gravy. Hernando’s Hideaway should stay hidden if you’re looking for an authentic or even enjoyable experience. You may love the place if your favorite Italian is Chef Boyardee. The tortillas were grainy and spongy, and the beans resembled something an animal would deposit on a lawn. The rice was dry and seasoned far too much. I ended up picking at this thing and suffering pretty awful heartburn after wards. The staff seemed like they had better things to do, and better tables to wait on. Not impressed with the snotty atmosphere and expensive prices for mediocre food. You will not be missed.

The best part of the meal was the Margaritas. It made me forget about where i was and added a beer-goggles effect to what i was eating.

Don’t be fooled – this is not authentic, and is barely better than something you would get out of a can. I’d be more forgiving if this were a chain restaurant like Chili’s or Applebees, but it’s not. It is touted as “California style” Mexican food on their website. I don’t know what that means to people up here other than it’s far away and close to Mexico. It is a disservice to anyone in California as well, as i have had amazing Mexican food all up and down the entire state of California. I suggest the owners visit California or hell, even Mexico. They may learn a thing or two about creating simple, tasty, fresh Mexican dishes and take some hints on hospitality. Not that California is known for it, but it’s better than the holier than thou attitude experienced at this dive.

Next up, I’ll take you along for a trip to Kensington Market where a little gem exists named El Trompo (mentioned a few times in other posts). Stay tuned, as there is a little bit of hope for Toronto and it’s attempts at branding food “Mexican”. The hunt continues…

Shout outs!

I just wanted to throw out a quick update and let everyone know we are still alive! I’ve had the pleasure of being contacted by various people in the community and had the chance to talk about their enthusiasm for tacos, Mexican food and the LOVE that comes from the heart when discussing all things surrounding the scene in Salt Lake. I wanted to give a shout out to Daniel who works at Quetzal Market and Quetzal Imports. We had a great conversation about our passion for tacos and food and what can be done to revitalize the scene in Salt Lake City. Daniel has some really amazing ideas in the pipeline that i think may change the face of the taco culture in good old SL,UT – so stay tuned and keep your eye open for new things around town in the future! Check out http://www.elquetzalimports.com (580 West 500 North in Salt Lake and 9046 West 2700 South in Magna) where he works and stop in and say hello and support this local business! They have some of the best products in town. Stop by and tell them your friends at SLCTACOS sent you. Anyone look for awesome Pupusas and tacos also Central American style tamales should stop in immediately!

If anyone has any stories they would like to share and would like them re-printed here, please email them in and we’ll re-post them for the world. Thank you all for your continued support of local businesses and the taco stand culture. Much respect for all those out there who eat, cook and share the taco love!

A Return to Taco Land

After a few months out of the United States, i returned craving one of the things they do not do well in Canada; TACOS. Well, they don’t do Mexican food well at all up there (apart from El Trompo), so getting back into town i was relieved i would have no problem finding some good, cheap food.

We decided to check out Latino Mall, located on the south west side of Salt Lake City. While we probably didn’t go at the best time (after 7pm on a cold Wednesday night), i was impressed with this little Latino treasure i had no idea existed in our city. A mini-mall of sorts, it hosts an old school arcade, a full on Mexican market, and dozens of shops including all sorts of food, and even a little frozen treats shop.

As we entered, there were only a few shops open. The first one being directly to our right immediately caught our eye and we proceeded forward to check out the menu. The Paisa grill had the usual fare on it’s menu, but it’s specialty was the Molcajete. The Molcajete is pretty much how it translates to english. It is a mortar (minus the pestle) lined in foil, and layered from bottom to top with cheese, cactus, grilled jalapenos, onions and meats including steak, chicken or a “Supreme” version adding shrimp.

The full size easily feeds at least two people, and would probably feed 3-4 realistically. We were unable to eat the entire contents of our molcajete, but we were particularly fond of the molten cheese at the bottom. Armed with a stack of warm tortillas, this is great comfort food and something good to sit down and share with a friend or two.

Now we needed desert. Thank goodness only a few feet away from Paisa, was Palateria or “The Beautiful One” which specialized in frozen fruit popsicle and drinks, ice creams, etc. There were dozens of flavors to choose from, so we figured we should try something a bit exotic and not just go for a chocolate or straight up fruit popsicle. Kelly opted for the Cucumber and Chile pop, and i went for the Tamarind and Chile pop. Let’s just say these were interesting. Maybe after a messy, drunken trawl across the city is required to truly appreciate one of these Chile infused pops, but it was just a bit too much to handle, for both of us. While mine was not spicy, the conflicting flavors just weren’t happening on my flavor flap. They may go well while smoking crack or eating pickled eggs. That sort of thing. So, not a fan of those – especially after a few burps an hour or so later. Cucumber and Chile just don’t taste right coming up the wind pipe. I almost felt like puking is a better alternative to burping up these flavors. Ever have radishes and then eat some toothpaste and do a shot of tabasco? If you haven’t tried yet, i highly recommend you go out and try it so you know how unnecessary it is in your life.

Something strange to note about Latino Mall, is that while it caters exclusively to Latinos, there is a strange section under construction that will soon host a Vietnamese restaurant. You can be sure we will be checking this place out, as rumor has it it will be spanish speaking friendly and i’m just dying to find out if there is gonna be some traditional mexican flavors blasted into this stuff from the other side of the continent.

Not quite defeated we cruised up north on Redwood Road in hopes of encountering a rogue taco truck or two. While we didn’t find any worth our immediate attention, we did pass a curious little dive that had road construction literally blocking it from all view aside from a glowing “OPEN” sign. The name of the restaurant is El Maguey (I need to double check this as i can’t find them again on Google Maps, so the name may be updated next time you read this).

We had to traverse a bit to find the entrance and park. After we exited the car we were greeted with the back side of a pretty shady looking place with “ENTRADA” sharpie signs all over the place. I felt a little like i was soon to be pounced and stuffed into a potato sack and sold on the black market to pornographers looking to cash in on my pretty boy looks and make some donkey-porn. Sadly, nothing like that happened and we were instead greeted with a Hola! from a tiny woman inside. This place obviously did not cater to those looking for a sanitized, mormon-friendly chow house. This is for all the real dudes. Probably a hit with the blue collar crowd, this place is a little run down and in a bit of disarray given it’s structural integrity and obvious impediment the construction had on it’s attraction. However, the tacos KICKED ASS. We took a seat on the yellow and orange booth seats and were pleasantly surprised with chips and two types of salsa – a traditional tomato salsa, and something else i was not sure of, but was cream based with cucumber and probably a bit of avocado. The al pastor and carnitas tacos were delicious. The pork marinade for the Al Pastor tacos was not as glamorous as, say, Chungas, but these had an undeniable flavor that prompted both of us to make guttural moans of pork eating pleasure. Thoroughly impressed with the food, this is another one we need to put on our list of “must visit again”. Hopefully the construction situation improves and they can maybe clean up the place a bit, and it would be a surefire hit. By the way, the also sold cell phones. So, maybe they like this place looking a little seedy to keep out anyone of an unwelcome ilk (ie; pigs, ignorant caucasians, and mexican food haters). Check it out if you’ve got the time and can speak a little spanish, because the only one who did in this restaurant was a young lad who looked like a skinny version of me. His mother probably shoved him out into the dining area to ask us to speak English with us. Luckily, Kelly (burgersmoke) is 1/8th Latino and speaks Spanish.

Well folks, this concludes another episode of Taco Land adventures, and we hope to bring you more soon! I have severely neglected writing here, and hope to rectify that situation by stuffing my face with more tacos, frequently. If you have a place you want us to check out, email us and let us know. If you run a restaurant and want the professional Taco Journalists of SLCTACOS and our staff of expert Taco Tasters to come sample your food, hit us up as well and we’ll have no problem coming out to eat on your dime.

REVIEW – Tacos El Ranchero II

Tacos El Ranchero

Taco Stand

900 W North Temple (parking lot of Century Cleaners)

4 out of 5 stars

So, back on the 4th of this lovely and strange month, Kelly rescued me from an unemployed funk day of being stuck in the house. Kelly is probably the most selfless person i know, and offered to pick me up and hit the town for some tacos. No man comes closer to the grace of Ghandi than Kelly. After getting in the taco-mobile, Kelly, sensing i was feeling a little down, asked me what my soul craved besides my girlfriend. I paused and looked out the window, realizing it was a beautiful day. I answered as i normally do: “Tacos…. How about this supposed Liberty Park taco stand?”.

By now, we know this mythical kitchen on wheels does exist, but at the time i was skeptical thinking that the city would never allow a taco stand in the park. I felt that this one was going to be hard to track down. As we drove around Liberty, we did not see anything resembling a mobile haven for tortillas and meats. However, we did spot a dry erase board on the side of the road that seemed to point somewhere off in the distance, maybe Narnia, maybe it was pointed towards hell (Provo), or maybe someone was playing tricks on us.

tacos you say?

tacos you say?

We decided we needed to hit this motherf*cker on foot, so we started walking around the park in search of it. We spotted another taco enthusiast in the park looking for this taco stand as well. He had expensive tracking equipment, and clearly had a 1-up on us.

Taco enthusiast with the latest in taco tracking devices.

Taco enthusiast with the latest in taco tracking devices.

Weary, tired and beaten down by “the man”, we gave up. “Screw this!” I say. So we do what anyone with an honest hunger for a taco would do. We went to one of the most deadly neighborhoods of Salt Lake, known for it’s presence of land mines, snipers and mean men sitting on couches on their front lawns with flame throwers. Kelly and I, however, are trained to handle these types of situations since we are professional taco eaters.

We used to work up the road from this spot at Microsoft Games Studios/Indiebuilt and would frequent East Seas restaurant, which is across the street from this lovely taco stand. Tacos El Ranchero is situated in the parking lot of a laundry mat. It may look a little intimidating. If you’re a true taco enthusiast you’ll find yourself standing before a lovely array of condiments consisting of one of the best quacamole sauces, salsas, cabbage and other nibbly things.

even Tony Little would get excited at this

even Tony Little would get excited at this

Since Kelly and I started working on this site, I made it a point to tell him that i was ready to take some changes and do things I haven’t done before. I promised him that i would sample every type of meat i came across, without fear. So to keep that promise, i ordered up two tasty Lengua (tongue) tacos, two Al Pastor, and two Carne Asada. After dressing my tacos i was ready to chow down on the lovely plate of food.

Naked tacos.... Surely this is illegal in Utah

Naked tacos.... Surely this is illegal in Utah

This is a family site (yeahrite) so i put some clothes on these fellas.

This is a family site (yeahrite) so i put some clothes on these fellas.

I love cucumbers, so i loaded up on quite a few. The first taco that was going to enter my mouth hole was the tongue taco. I’ve never made out with a cow before, so for a first time french kiss, i must say it was pretty damn good. Once i got past the somewhat sketchy texture, i let the taco do it’s little dance in my mouth. The tongue was tender and succulent, with flavors bursting from each cow taste bud i devoured. I highly recommend trying this if you never had. It tastes like the rest of the cow, kids. That, and you can tell your neighborhood friends you ate tongue and you still sleep at night without guilt.

Next up, i threw the Al Pastor tacos down the hatch. By comparison to Chungas Al Pastor, these don’t really get close to the wonderment that an Al Pastor taco from Chungas can do for your solar plexus. That aside, these were good. Very good, in fact. The red hot sauce kindly provided by the condiment table accompanied these quite nice. Be careful of the red sauce though, as it’s a bit hot in comparison to some other hot sauces I’ve come across at taco stands.

To finish things off, i end things with a solid standby, the Carne Asada tacos. The meat was flavorful, and seasoned wonderfully. It’s hard to do Carne Asada wrong, and the master chef at El Ranchero knows how to grill up this standard.

My belly satisfied, it was time to return back to reality. Kelly returned to work, and i went back to my cave. The feelings I had that day still stay with me, as i fondly look back on March 4th. It was a day i will never forget, and i will definitely try to repeat when i come back to the neighborhood. Tacos El Ranchero is one of the better taco stands in the downtown area. You really can’t go wrong with the street tacos produced here. A good friend, a sunny day, and a warm tortilla in your hand can do wonders for your body and soul. Go check it out.

A happy bunch, enjoying ourselves.

A happy bunch, enjoying ourselves.

Taco Stand Robbery/Assault

Nate wrote us to inform us of a terrible incident that happened on 7700 South and 600 West. If you have ANY information about this, please contact the police! Here is a story KSL ran on the incident: here

There are some interesting comments on the story on the KSL site i want to address later, mostly dealing with the fact that many people seem to have the opinion that taco stands are not welcome in our communities, and even attract crime. What are your opinions, slctacos readers?