Bury me at Burrito Truck. Or, failing that, in close proximity to some other source of Mexican food.
It is an oddity of the food world to note just how different “authentic” Mexican food can be from Americanized or “institutionalized” Mexican found in many restaurants. In many ways, they seem like almost entirely different genres - the ingredients, preparation and source can all be completely separate. It’s night and day.
Such is the division in Decatur these days, between typical Mexican restaurants and the food available from a handful of small shops and food trucks. Three locations in particular: La Tienda Burrito Truck, Burrito Feliz Truck and “Mexican Restaurant” on 22nd Street and Eldorado, currently stand out as producing a product that bears almost no resemblance to what you’ll be getting at the brick-and-mortar restaurants. This is not to say that one form is inherently “better” than the other, just vastly different.
On one hand, you’ve got Decatur’s regular Mexican restaurants; places like Guadalajara, Mi Pueblito, El Corral, El Matador, Mi Jalapeno, La Fondita and many others. You know exactly what to expect from these places if you regularly take advantage of their lunch menus, as reporters at the H&R offices are wont to do. This is cheap food, both in the pocketbook and on the plate. Everything you order seems vaguely the same. Tacos have hard shells and are basically assembled in the same way you would get them from Taco Bell. Most things come covered in cheese sauce. A “burrito” from the lunch menu is filled with plain ground beef and covered with red sauce, making whatever factor differentiates it from an enchilada “un gran misterioso.” It’s dependably plain food.
A trip to the Burrito Feliz (Martin Luther King and Eldorado) or La Tienda Burrito (Pershing and US-51, just east of Culvers) trucks, on the other hand, is a whole new world. Freshly fried, soft, double corn tortillas for tacos with your choice of meat, served with raw onion, cilantro and a lime wedge. Choices of meat that include non-standard selections like al pastor (marinated pork), chorizo, milanesa (breaded steak) ham, and lengua — which is beef tongue, and you seriously ought to try it at least once, trust me. A reduced menu, to be certain, but given the many combinations of meats and toppings, you can get a lot of mileage out of burritos, tacos, quesadillas and tortas, which are Mexican-style sandwiches.
My aim isn’t to convince you to swear off “cheap” or “unhealthy” food, because let’s face it, the health aspect of going to a taco truck is no better than eating half a pound of liquid cheese. It could even be worse, depending on just how saturated the oil that streams from my carne asada taco is. No, all I want is for you to be aware of your lunchtime options out there. They each have their place, although I do get the feeling that I’m going to be doing a lot of burrito truck visiting in the near future until I’ve tried just about everything on the menu. If you’re like me and you place a big value in novelty, then I expect I’ll see you out there.
And if Mexican food isn’t your thing, keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming blog post breakdown of Decatur’s entire summer food truck landscape.
What do you think, sirs?