Food Truck Bite of the Week: Carne Asada Tacos at El Tonayense
Our weekly bite explores the city's food trucks, one at a time, highlighting our favorite mobile dishes and snacks.
Lou Bustamante Left to right: carne asada, carnitas tacos
The Truck: El Tonayense
The Cuisine: Jalisco style Mexican food
Specialty Items: The tacos
Worth the Wait in Line? At peak lunch time, a total 4 minutes from the end of the line to food in hand.
It's easy to get lost in the novelty and thrill of the chase of the latest food cart, but the old guard of taco trucks hold up their own, dishing out some of the cheapest and fastest food around. One of the oldest empires around (since 1993) is the Santana family owned El Tonayense trucks. Named after the town in Jalisco where the family is from, Tonaya (someone from there would be called a Tonayense), the trucks are scattered along Harrison at 14th, 17th, and 19th dishing out a great selection of taqueria standards.
While the carnitas and al pastor seemed more stewed than fried, the beef here was the standout in its many forms. The cabeza was rich and beefy with a taco arriving topped with large shreds of meat, but it was the Carne Asada Taco ($1.75, salsa, jalapeño spear, pickled carrot), the most basic that I went back for a few more times. Cooked well done (like a lot of meats are in Mexico are), the marinade kept the things juicy, while the time on the flat top grill gave the meat enough of a sear to caramelize the outside. Not quite crisp, but tender and flavorful. The hot salsa splashed on top added pepper heat and depth that tied it all in.
There's nowhere to sit, but the orders move so fast, that you are best off ordering a few at a time to keep the food hot and balanced on the thin paper plates while you stand and eat. That's part of the charm. Standing around with complete strangers, enjoying small and inexpensive bites of food in the most unassuming of places.
The best part is how easily you can scale the meal to your appetite, mixing and matching your fillings. Just peckish? Have one! Shopping at Office Depot/Best Buy/Rainbow wear you out? Try two! Finished a hard day getting spanked at Kink.com up the street? You deserve at least five, but only if you beg.
El Toyanense Taco Truck: Harrison at 14th Street