Friday night Chow Truck and Art!!!

Hi everyone!

It’s been a long time has it not?  Several of you have asked me why it’s taken so long to have some new reviews here on slctacos.com.  Well I been way busy, mang!  How busy?  Well, let’s review…

  1. Finished up the video game Toy Story 3 for work.  If you have kids (or like having fun), go check it out.  It’s a great game
  2. Besides practically living at work finishing the game I was also accepted to graduate school.  I’ll be studying Computational Linguistics at the University of Washington
  3. I also moved to be much closer to the taco epicenter of Salt Lake City.  I’m now blocks away from the heart of the action between 800 and 900 South
  4. I’ve been busy hanging with sharks

So now that life is back to normal, I have several taco stand reviews already written and some great taco recipes to share with all of you.  I can’t wait to get back to work as a taco journalist.

In the meantime, sometimes people ask me “Where can I find the Chow Truck to try their original tacos?”

Well, it just so happens that I know exactly where the Chow Truck will be parked on Friday night July 16th.

It will be parked directly outside the great STOLEN & ESCAPED gallery (177 E 300 S, below Frosty Darling) which will be showing 4 of my paintings including a brand new one which I have yet to post on the Electric Internet.  So consider this a call to tacos.  A call to art.  Come on down and chow down with us.

The gallery will be open from 6pm to 9pm and the Chow Truck is planning to be there from 7pm to 9pm.

Come on my and say hello to check out some of my paintings like these :

manta ray, laser eyes : killing a building

the squid’s technique was stealth

ZEBRA BITE ATTACK!!!

“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

REVIEW – Chow Truck

Chow Truck

Location : Parked in various places around Salt Lake City.  Find where it is today at http://www.chowtruck.com/

Review : 4.5 stars

As Noyen previously mentioned, there’s a brand new mobile eatery in Salt Lake City.  You may remember in 2009 that I wrote about a truck in California serving up asian fusion tacos and that I wished Salt Lake had something similar.  This wish has come true in the form of the Chow Truck.  I recently loaded up the tacocar with my fellow taco enthusiasts to see if the truck could live up to my dream.  How did it live up to my dream?  Keep reading and this taco adventure will unroll like a tortilla before your eyes.

The air was electric with anticipation for the Chow Truck as we left the office to load up on tacos.  We had already heard from others who had tasted from the truck that the tacos (and other delights) on the menu were a very different and delicious experience not to be missed.  And of course I was more than giddy about the idea of a truck which moves all over the city day to day whose location you must find from its website or from Twitter.  This idea of taco trucks and flash mobs was something I had wanted to see for a long time.

As we arrived at the Chow Truck where it was parked that day at Trolley Square the incredibly friendly owner of the truck SuAn Chow immediately jumped out of the truck to greet us.  Extremely friendly, SuAn walked us through everything on the menu and recommended a few of the tacos that people had been enjoying lately.  From what I understand, the menu can change frequently based on what people are liking, so when you go there you may have something else entirely.

We all chatted with SuAn for a bit who told us about how she started the truck and how well business was already going.  SuAn has been working in the restaurant business for some time so when she was thinking of starting the Chow Truck she started out with a lot of research. Trust me, she takes her food and her tacos seriously!  She spent a lot of time in Los Angeles checking out Kogi Tacos and the other taco trucks that LA has to offer and came back to treat us with the Chow Truck. She also explained how she and chef Rosanne Ruiz developed the menu and how they wanted to explore the cuisine that results when Mexico and all of Asia meet inside the demilitarized zone of a tortilla.  Check chef Ruiz’ impressive history as a chef.  Her credentials alone will make you want to visit the Chow Truck.

SuAn Chow is one of the nicest people in Salt Lake City.  I listened to what SuAn told us and knew immediately that I needed to try one of each taco :

  • Coconut Lemongrass Chicken
  • Pineapple-Ginger Pork
  • Spicy Beef w/ Cilantro Chili Pesto

I had no idea that the flavors would be such an interesting mix so I was impatient to get these tacos into my mouth-hole. Luckily, the tacos arrived quickly into my mouth-hole and I have to say that I recommend these tacos to all taco enthusiasts.  These were absolutely delicious.  The chicken was great.  Delicious fresh veggies mixed in with lemongrass chicken.  The pineapple-ginger pork was fantastic.  The ginger gave this a great aftertaste.
Finally, I chomped down on the spicy beef.  Absolutely amazing.  Several of us went back for seconds just to try this delicious spicy taco a second round.  I haven’t been to the truck in a few weeks, but this was by far the crowd pleaser in our group so check it out.

I’ve been back again to the Chow Truck and it’s been consistently good.  As well as handing out goodness in the beloved form of a taco, they also appeal to others in the form of a tiny hamburger or “slider” who love a good burger like I do.  This was great just like the tacos are.

So go try out the Chow Truck and let me know how you like it.  I read that yesterday the truck was making Pork Mole Quesadillas. I missed it but hopefully they’ll have them later this week if I can break away from the office.

In closing, here’s a gallery of all of the taco enthusiasts on this trip and how many tacos they ate :

6-time world taco tasting champion Benson -- 3 tacos

Taco enthusiast Tyler -- 3 tacos

Taco enthusiast Bryce -- 3 tacos

Taco enthusiast Chris -- 3 tacos

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The author of this article put away 3 tacos and he wants more. RIGHT NOW!

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!

The Power of Tacos

So we talked in to Chunga’s a few days ago and noticed a new bit of artwork on the wall which re-iterates the power of the taco.  We had to get a picture of taco enthusiast Jeff in front of it.

Does anyone know who originally stated the quote?

I’m pretty sure it was Benjamin Franklin, right?

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.

Music to eat tacos by

So if you’re looking for music to listen to next time you sit down to enjoy some delicious tacos, check out the new podcast I just started with my good friend Jared Gallardo.

It’s called “Gentlemen, Scotch and Song” and you can go listen here right now :

http://www.gentlemenscotchandsong.com

PUPUSA REVIEW — Chulton City Pupusa Stand

IMG_0313

Just a few taco enthusiasts becoming PUPUSA enthusiasts

Pupusas Chulton City

300 S Main (SW corner of the street by the bank)

Salt Lake City, UT

801-637-8557

4 out of 5 stars

A few weeks ago I received an important and urgent message from taco enthusiast GURTHY.  Since he and I both work in the downtown area and he knows of my love of tacos he sent me an IM that there was a new taco stand located on the corner of the 300 S and Main.  I promised Gurthy I would check out the stand and report back.  Jon, consider this your attention.

A few of us walked over from work to report on this new “taco” stand.  We were immediately surprised to find PUPUSAS instead.

GURTHY INITIAL REPORT : Don’t be alarmed, but this is not a taco stand

GURTHY SECOND REPORT : Although this site is titled slcTACOS.com, this review will go on, because I love pupusas and their birthplace is as close to Mexico as you get.

What is a pupusa? I suppose now would be a good time to talk about their deliciousness.  A pupusa is a wonderful treat which comes to us from El Salvador.  However, instead of using a thin tortilla like our amigos mexicanos, these salvadorenos use maize flour dough to create a thick flat bread which they will with all sorts of things like cheese, pork, chicken and many others.  The best way I have found to describe pupusas to most people is that they are a lot like a mexican gordita but their bread is much thicker.

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A pupusa is born in this visual example of how maize flour dough is transformed into a pupusa.

After relating this information to my taco compatriots, we started right away and I ordered three pupusas : cheese, chicken and pork.  After ordering I asked the owners how long they had been open.  At the time of writing, this familia salvadorena has been open for about 2 months and they report that business has been very good so far.  The name of the stand they tells me comes from their hometown in El Salvador.  I did a bit of searching on the electric internet and so far have not been able to find anything about the city or find it on a map.

Pupusas at the stand run $1.50 a piece and usually 2 or 3 will be more than enough for a meal.  Add a bit of cabbage and salsa and you’re in business for a great meal on the hustling and bustling streets of downtown Salt Lake City.

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A quick little snapshot of two of the pupusas I found a home for.

After our meal, I asked our otherwise band of tacovores what they thought of the meal and they had already made up their minds to come back.  We exchanged a few laughs with the owners of the stand who were thrilled to be causing the beginning of 5 new pupusa careers and we promised to come back soon.

GURTHY FINAL REPORT : So that’s a pupusa and it’s a block from your work.  Are you man enough to try one?