Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
The roots of gourmet tacos are from south of the border. But the fresh, innovative ingredients and above-board operations ensure diners a fun, healthy meal.
Let’s give credit where credit is due in the evolution from workaday lunches to gourmet tacos. In America, urban street food has for several generations been characterized by food trucks operating in vibrant Latino neighborhoods and work sites where Latinos made up a large percentage of the workforce. And the appeal was hardly limited to those who trace their heritage to Mexico or Central America: who doesn’t like tacos, burritos, tortas, pozole, a red salsa, a tomatillo salsa, avocado and a healthy mix of jalapenos?
But some of the vendors of these dishes took on some unsavory informal names: roach coach, grease truck and gut truck among them. In some cases, the “facility” was little more than a modified hot dog cart, purchased for about $2000 and operated wherever people might be hungry and food inspectors far from view.
Since the mid-aughts – 2008 or thereabouts – things took a turn for the better. Food truck services along with taco catering carts have emerged as the new way to throw a party or just enjoy a dinner in an unorthodox location. No longer restricted to a single venue, gourmet taco carts can go where the party is – quite like how the traditional Mexican food trucks went to where workers needed a lunch and a cool bottle of aguas frescas.
To be clear, these aren’t the $2000 hot dog carts of old. The gourmet food truck might cost as much as $75,000 new, outfitted with the latest in kitchen appliances necessary for satisfying a mobile diner. Alternatively, on-site taco carts are pared down from that, but still able to prepare a fresh dish to order from people attending parties, corporate events, fundraisers or on film production sets and even weddings.
The vendor might offer signature salsas (e.g., tomatillo, salsa roja and perhaps an island infusion borrowing from Jamaican and other Caribbean cultures). These mobile canteens can come with a bartender, DJ service, servers, car valet and photographers. As diners sip mojitos, they might also have a ceviche stack, taquitos, a slowly simmered carnitas and seasoned and grilled tofu to round out their evening. The more environmentally responsible mobile taco cart purveyor will include grilled tilapia in its entrees, opting for a sustainable fish stock over threatened species such as Mahi Mahi.
Importantly, the higher profile of these food carts and trucks mean they are subject to the scrutiny of local health departments and insurance companies. This protects the safety of the dining public as well as those people who are employed in the enterprise. It’s part of why urban hipsters – Millennials, Gen Xers and even Baby Boomers – have embraced the new style of eating so enthusiastically. Tell them that an event will have taco cart catering and they won’t flinch. It’s what they’ve come to enjoy and trust in event dining.