Wheels of Fortune

The streets of every major city get heavy traffic from catering trucks. But cities like Oakland, with large Mexican-American communities, have made parking lots and corners grind spots for taco trucks that serve cheap and delicious food fast. Gimme what you got for a torta!

So many hate on fast food. They say, “It’s unhealthy!”, “It’s corporate!” “They use third world baby cows!” Maybe the problem is that the haters can’t think outside the Happy Meal box. Maybe it’s time to abandon the Acura, balk at the mall and walk down the boulevard in a Hispanic community for quick, handheld delicious food. Catering trucks in California date back to the LA area in the early ’50s and ’60s, when the trucks would service factories and Hollywood sets for lunchtime convenience, but today taco trucks up and down the West Coast serve authentic Mexican fare like tortas, tacos, menudo and tamales. California’s Bay Area is known for its diverse culinary delights, which usually means more money, more problems. Looking for an alternative, Mass Appeal asked Ajene Moss, an East Bay native and creator of the website tacotrucks.net and photographer Dylan Maddox to find out what’s on the menu in East Oakland’s taco truck scene.

Hit International Boulevard, the life vein of East Oakland, and you’ll find all types of people washing down a lime sprinkled carne asada taco with a refreshing Jarrito Mexican soda. Taco trucks start opening up at around nine AM and some keep at it until around three in the morning. Look down International Boulevard at around five PM and you’ll find at least two taco trucks on every block. Some owners set up tables and benches outside their trucks where you’ll find families, couples and friends, all enjoying food. The prices are pretty much standard: $1.25 for a soft taco, $3 for a torta, $4 for a burrito—the hot sauce and limes are free. Though the prices are cheap like commercialized Mexican fast food chains, the recipes and quality are as different as night and day, bringing that authentic Mexican food to the block. You’ll find meats like carnitas (fried pork), tripas (beef intestines), lengua (beef tongue), carne asada (beef steak), chicken breast and thighs, al pastor (roast pork), cesos (brains) and cabeza (beef cheeks). The menu is more of a guide, as most taco truck cooks will make customized orders: select a meat to fill a torta (sandwich), quesadilla or tostada and accompany it with a bowl of menudo (soup).

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