Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
It’s about more than the rise in taco and salsa popularity. It’s because tacos are so darn easy to serve and versatile for a broad range of tastes.
There has been some unnecessary handwringing over a news item reported already in the early 1990s: it’s that the total dollars spent on salsa surpassed ketchup in American grocery stores and restaurants. Particularly around times like the Fourth of July, need we fret that mobile taco catering is also edging out hot dog carts at parties, sports events and concerts?
Event planners tasked with Independence Day celebrations are now familiar with the choices they have in front of them: go with the very traditional dishes and beverages (hot dogs, apple pie, Aunt Edna’s lemon squares, beer, etc.), or try something newer, fresher – and perhaps more reflective of American freedom?
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with tradition. But we’re an inventive country – which means that some people, many people in fact, like salsa on their hot dogs. Judging by the popularity of taco cart catering found at events, parties and popular nighttime neighborhoods, it’s clear that the times they are a-changing.
And perhaps becoming more interesting. Taco caterers have a lot more to work with than buns, dogs and burgers. A taco might have Caribbean carne asada, slow simmered carnitas, seasoned and grilled tofu, grilled vegetables or even Jamaican chicken for fillings. Some of the better parties will have a margarita bar and seasoned and grilled tilapia and shrimp.
But it’s the very nature of taco service that makes a 4th of July party so successful. Taco catering means an easier set up and simpler way for guests to enjoy themselves. The taco service is from a self-contained kitchen, so all you need are places for the mobile unit to park. And because one needs neither knife nor fork to eat a taco, the diners can mill about the party and mix with others instead of sitting for an entire meal on one picnic bench (perhaps with cranky Uncle Norman, who puts ketchup on everything).
Also, guests get to choose their fillings and toppings, so there’s no need to worry if the vegans or the pescetarians or carnivores are going to feel slighted – there’s something for everyone. Taco caterers go to great lengths to ensure every taco is made-to-order, right in front of the diner. There is little chance of slipping in some Jaimaican chicken into what’s supposed to be an all-vegetable taco.
As for beverages, it’s perfectly acceptable to serve beer with tacos (a “birra” if you prefer), but the margarita bar option is there as well. Perhaps the ketchup debate will never go away (the metric is purchase prices, not volume). But perhaps the hot dog people and the taco people can all get along over a nice cold beverage – and by sharing the idea that both summer party foods help people gather, engage, enjoy and form good memories.