I have only heard of such glorious things like food truck festivals, and only watched the frenzy that befalls a gaggle of the wheeled eateries on shows like “The Great Food Truck Race.” Boy and I went to see the Jon Favreau flick “Chef” because I’m such a foodie, and all it did was make me want to open a food truck. (Boy and I actually had a discussion about the financials of it. No, I have not yet let go of the dream, so if a food truck touting gourmet peanut butter and jelly sammies comes rolling into your town, please come buy from us.)
The first time we visited the New Haven IKEA I squealed like a child when I spotted a line of food trucks off the highway, but we already had no idea where we were going so those trucks were nothing but a blip on my radar. The second time we went to the same IKEA, however, there was no way I was letting them slip by.
Oh my god, it was a. Parking. Lot. Party. ….one in which I never felt so aware of my Caucasian-ness.
A dozen spots, a dozen trucks line two asphalt strips parked right next to the water on Long Wharf Drive. Therefore, you aren’t only getting a highly delicious and authentic Mexican meal, you’re also getting a beautiful view to enjoy it by.
Foot traffic shared the same lane as cars creeping through. Salsa music of varying degrees seeped out of choice trucks, though it didn’t create the cacophony you’d expect from such close quarters; rather, a tone was set as you traveled from place to place. Each truck had a set of plastic lawn chairs in front, filled by people who were clearly regulars, or family members, or truck workers – or, like, all three. And although I probably should have felt out of place in my khaki-shorted, Kate Spade bag white woman way, I did not. Even though it was clear that everyone here was family in some way, you were family, too, one who had many, many different dinner tables to choose from.
The Italian in me was losing her shit.
We walked the entire line twice. Each menu featured some sort of taco with beef, steak, and chicken as fillers at around $1.50 a pop. There were also quesadillas and burritos, empanadas, rice and beans, pico de gallo – all of the people from Wilkes-Barre who flock to La Tolteca on the weekend would have had their heads explode with a mere glimpse of this place.
Shit, some places even had pina coladas!
Trucks were named things like Nexcalli and Ixtapa; others had insanely impressive vehicle art (I had no idea red, white, and green could be used so creatively and in so many combos); and then there was Sweeney’s,a sad little white truck with a menu that consisted of hot dogs, cold drinks and hot coffee. For as odd as it was, it had a crowd – that consisted of the random mother who didn’t know what she was getting into when her children begged her to pull off the road in the middle of the family trip to stop for some grub.
Of all things, the truck we chose had only one inscription aside from its menu items: Mexican Food.
Yes, this may have been the actual name of the truck. I had no idea, and I wasn’t going to ask; I was just taking it as a sign that we were hitting THE MOST authentic place there.
Towards the far end of the line, this truck carried what all others did, but there was a solitary item that caught our eye: the cuban.
There is no solid origin for the Cuban, but I can tell you the name of a place that is always in the running when the it’s brought up, and it’s one you’ll recognize if you’ve paid attention here: Ybor City.
Cuban sandwiches were a spin on the typical ham and cheese combo that were popularized when served to the large amount of cuban workers in both Ybor and Tampa back in the day. Though the ingredients vary as you cross geographical borders, the staples are Cuban bread brushed with olive oil, yellow mustard, roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles. Certain areas, such as Tampa, add Genoa salami. You can also add things like lettuce, mayo, and tomatoes (the latter of which I added to my order), but purists will say those initial ingredients are all that belong on the bread.
Look, I don’t give a shit if you throw on the salami or whatever – what I had that day was insanely delicious. It was grease dripping down my leg as I walked to the car delicious, which actually happened because the bag started leaking. I wasn’t even pissed. I lamented the fact that I was losing flavor with every step I took.
I somehow managed to save a half for home.
I ate it as soon as I got home.