Food truck quick bite: Tacos El Flaco....more carnitas!!
Some people eat to run, I run to eat. Otherwise, if I continued the eating habits and food I have so grandly put on display in this blog without it, I’d be setting myself up for a spot on My 600-lb Life. And for those of you who haven’t seen it, you don’t know what you are missing. I try to run outside as much as possible and SF affords plenty of opportunities for it with its moderate to slightly chilly weather, the best kind to run in without feeling like you are going to vomit from heat exposure. A lot times I like to go down 3rd Street into Dogpatch and Bayview as, despite there being a construction boom and an occasional baseball game, the roads down that way are usually pretty empty of people crowding sidewalks and lines of cars rushing by. This is especially true on weekends, it is like a ghost town.
A handful of years ago as I ran down Illinois Street, I started noticing a taco truck along a certain stretch of what is still predominantly an industrial neighborhood with a giant Muni yard, a concrete and stone factory and a giant USPS facility nearby. As the years went on, the truck seemed to become a mainstay Mondays through Fridays (I would see it on late morning runs with my third shift schedule) and always seemed to be drawing a crowd from the warehouse workers and Muni repair guys. Every time I ran by the smell of grilling meat made me want to stop and give them a try or at least say, I need to come back by sometime. As with many things like that, I never really managed to pull myself together and get back over there before they vanished back into the night wherever food trucks go to sleep.
Then of course, fate stepped in to lend a hand and I found myself back working a block or so away from their location at 25th and Illinois with a random schedule that allowed me to drop by a few times to see what all the fuss was about at Tacos El Flaco (and no they do not have a website).
In essence this is kind of an old school original food truck with no fancy design or concept but just basic tacos and burritos made to order for the masses. Looking at the menu you choose a meat then choose a way you want it—taco, burrito, quesadilla, nachos or torta. Prices are also pretty standard at $2.50 for tacos, $5 for quesadillas and so on. I think the most pricey item you are gonna find is a giant nachos grande for $10 which includes things like avocado, sour cream, cheese, meat, etc.
I managed to get by several times to check this place out so didn’t really go all out crazy when ordering knowing it was nearby and I could try stuff. But it seemed like a good idea to get tacos since you know, it is in their name.
Okay, maybe I didn’t take it all that easy and ended up getting two carne asada (steak) tacos and two fish tacos. The fish will run you $3 each but I wanted to try something different and wasn’t sure how they would be prepared. I was happily surprised to see they were not of the battered and deep fried variety but the crumbled white fish kind. I’m guessing the fish was tilapia since it an easy inexpensive one to use. You get two soft white corn shells with each taco and enough meat to separate these out and make four tacos if you want. Same goes for the steak, there is plenty to go around. The fish is only slightly seasoned which is fine as you can actually taste it, not all fishy but more a slight buttery flavor. I think it could have spent about 30 seconds or so less on the grill but still, pretty tender. The steak had more flavor with some kind of paprika, pepper and salt mix. More enough to give it flavor but not overwhelming and also cooked without any bits of fat that could have made it hard and chewy.
You do get your fair share of onions and cilantro on top which I think work well for these kind of soft tacos but if you aren’t into it, you may want to ask for them on the side. You will also want to fill up your own little containers of their own truck made salsa and tomatillo sauce sitting just below the order window.
These do have a real kick to them with heat from jalapenos you can see in each. A little goes a long way unless like me you are really into the flavor then my suggestion is to pile it on. Added advantage you can count is a serving of fruits and veggies for your daily supply. (Yes! I’m going with that idea) All together these were quite filling and I probably went just a taco too far and would have felt just as satisfied with two, maybe three. But four was a lot to have and then go to work on instead of taking a nap or something.
Next time around it seemed a little cheese was in order and I could feel the quesadilla just calling my name.
A cheese only quesadilla will run you $5. If you add a meat it is another $3 and if you want the full supreme with sour cream and fresh sliced avocado, it would be another $1. My tastes are pretty simple so I went carnitas (pork) and cheese only and let me tell ya’, you get plenty of each stuffed into a giant grilled flour tortilla. It is like two halves of a grilled cheese sandwich Mexican style. It is a light white shredded quesadilla cheese with a nice buttery aftertaste and I’m all about the butter as you know. And how can you go wrong with melted cheese? That is really more rhetorical because you can’t! Add in some shredded slow cooked carnitas and boom, a full on meat and cheese sandwich kind of thing. The pork was like the one from Judie’s Tacos Locos and not all cut up in bits then grilled and fried but chunky shredded layers spread across the top of the cheese. I will give the edge in flavor and juiciness to Judie’s but Flaco’s was pretty good too. Let’s not forget the salsas from above which work super well with this giant cheesy, meaty quesadilla.
And here is just a half of it fully loaded with toppings. Another full on meal to fill you up and keep you going. Who needs a $10 or more sandwich when you can get all this? Still a rhetorical question people since it is no one!
I could say when I go by the truck I am mega hungry and my stomach is blinded and entranced by the smell of grilling meat and the idea of all that ooey, gooey cheese and tangy spicy tomatillo sauce. Or I could just say Tacos El Flaco isn’t reinventing the taco or quesadilla but just doing a really great job with the basics. I’m sure their burritos are tasty too as I see many folks ordering them, though that is a bit too many rice and beans for me. I’ll just be content with their tacos, quesadillas and salsas and hope once the new Warriors arena goes into full swing it won’t drive them from the hood which is short on affordable options nearby. Till then I’ll continue running and eating as much cheese and meat as they can serve up with a side of salsa—gotta get those veggies in right? Still rhetorical!