In the pre-history of the food trailer phenomenon, there was the simple taco truck.
It hung out around construction sites at noon, dispensing quick and cheap lunches to hungry workers. I haven’t checked lately, but I imagine there must still be some active operators, their mobile kitchens resplendent in their quilted stainless cladding.
But how the world of mobile kitchens has changed — both in geographic distribution, ethnic food options and social media promotion. Corners of the city that might never have imagined having access to the food truck phenom now have several options. And that, naturally, calls for periodic investigations of what’s new in far-flung neighborhoods.
Here’s one, and it happens to be a new favorite. Reversing the initial trend of trucks as a potential steppingstone to brick-and-mortar status, popular Mexican eatery Ro-Ho Pork & Bread (facebook.com/rohoporkandbread, (210) 689-4890) exemplifies the opposite: a successful restaurant that’s decided to branch out with a mobile version.
Located at the corner of Goliad Road and Hot Wells Boulevard — and sharing a small parking lot with a lively pollos asados trailer — the Ro-Ho trailer’s primary product is its popular torta ahogada. It comes to you in a kind of DIY kit for assembly at home: a split birote roll stuffed with savory carnitas, a plastic bag bulging with a modestly spicy tomato sauce, and some cabbage, onion and radish. Your job is to place the two halves of the sandwich into a large bowl, pour in the sauce, add garnish and consume — just slowly enough to let the bread get a little soggy.
For the torta and the Taco Chilango, there is a choice of “regular” carnitas or the more textural “mixed” version. Whichever you chose, the taco will come studded with crispy chicharrones — a beautiful and crunchy counterpoint to the moist meat — and a fragrant chile de arbol sauce. One of the best tacos in recent memory, it will draw me back just as easily as the torta. But one word of advice: it’s way easier to pay with cash.
Another recent and memorable food truck stop was at The Block, a University of Texas at San Antonio-area food truck park at Road Runner Ridge and UTSA Boulevard. I’d hoped to catch Bull Gogi Boys on a late Friday afternoon, but they were elsewhere. Not to worry, though, Venezuelan emissary Zulia’s Kitchen (facebook.com/zuliaskitchent, (737) 333-5748) was another target, and it more than made up for the loss.
The arepa is a cornerstone of Venezuelan cuisine. Its form is similar to that of a gordita, but it’s made instead from cooked, dehydrated corn meal that is rehydrated into a masa-like dough. My choice, the overstuffed Llanera, came with peppery grilled chicken (beef is also an option), white cheese, pico de gallo and avocado, all tucked into a split arepa. Sabrosisima. But equally satisfying was the simpler empanada of carne mechada, or shredded and stewed beef. I’m not sure which of the two aioli-adjacent sauces was meant for the empanada, but the stuffed pastry was flavorful enough to be consumed without either. As was the wheat-dough encased fried pastelito I chose to have filled with a crumbly, slightly sour queso blanco.
All was not lost on the quasi-Korean front, though, as there’s another concentration of trucks flanking the neighboring service station. Among them is Coreanos (facebook.com/CoreanosSanAntonio, (979) 383-4681), a recent arrival from Houston. Neither Korean nor Mexican purists are likely to be amused by the pair of cultural mashup items I ordered — they’re best described as hot messes. The Loco Pollo was a kind of burrito oozing with chicken, formerly crispy fries, kimchi and spicy mayo. The Kim Bap Bowl, ordered with chopped bulgogi, was served atop rice with cabbagey kimchi and more spiced mayo, and it proved a little easier to manage. But here’s the deal: if you don’t think about it much, both actually taste pretty good. The kimchi was an especially welcome combatant in the Mex-mashup melee.
My final stop was BarBCue Done Wright (bbqdonewright.com, (808) 866-8651), a truck whose menu is within striking distance of the Filipino culinary canon. It’s usually parked in front of a store dispensing CBD products on South Presa Street.
The most classic offering says it all in its name: Filipino Soul BBQ chicken. In addition to banana ketchup and vinegar, the recipe for this popular street food sometimes includes 7Up. The chicken is lacquered, luscious and a welcome addition to our own street scene.
William Wright’s Slammin ’Bama ribs also say it all in the name, offering all the meaty, peppery and smoky flavors you’d expect. These, though, are closer to Atlanta than Manila.
I’m less sure that Honolulu would want to claim the bland Hawaiian mac salad, but I’d be personally thrilled to take ownership of the truck’s barbecue baked beans, whatever their combined origins. They’re sweet, sour, hot and fragrant. In short, sensational.
If you order the Get My Taste Budzz On combo plate with two sides, just double up on those beans.
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