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Friday, December 31, 2010

Chef driven

A couple of months ago, I walked up to a local food truck, and ordered some tacos. Upon taking my order, the proprietor then proceeded to knead masa and make the tortillas. Needless to say, those tacos took a while to make, but were amazingly delicious. Unfortunately, I don't think most people appreciate the value that the tortilla itself brings to the taco.

Take, for example, my experience dining at one of the newfangled chef-driven food trucks, H-town strEATS.

At $3 per taco, they were double the price of the average taco truck around town, but I suppose some allowances were to be made for such exotica as pork belly and Korean beef tacos. Never mind that such standbys as lengua, sesos, ojos, barbacoa, and chicharrones are already considered exotic by mainstream standards.

To put it gently, I was rather disappointed. The start with, the tacos were presented on machine pressed prefab tortillas. Even reheated on a grill, contrasting that to freshly made tortillas is no contest. What's evident here is that the tortillas are nothing more than carriers for the filling.

So let's talk about the filling. I didn't exactly understand what was Korean about the Korean beef taco, least of all the inclusion of cotija cheese. The pork belly came in the form of shreds. Which already obviates the point of pork belly, which gets a lot of it's appeal from the layering of meat and fat. The contrast with the cucumber is a natural, but not so impressive.

The fried risotto balls (which are Italian arancini near as I can tell) fare a bit better. The rice is proper risotto texture, and there's a little chunk of mozzarella in each one. The tomato jam underneath it is too sweet, however.

The problem I see here is that food trucks are trendy at the moment, and seems that every rising chef sees the need to be amidst this trend, recapitulating "restaurant quality" food on the street, but with much lower overhead. But it isn't food truck quality food, which, contrary to the false dichotomy, can and is actually be very good. And amazingly inexpensive.

Unfortunately, I didn't see the soul in the food of strEATS. It is by no means bad, but at double the going rate of lonchero tacos in town, I'd like to taste more effort.


  1. I find it interesting that Streats is the only gourmet food truck that you have ever reviewed. In fact, it seems to be the ONLY mobile food vendor you have ever reviewed. So I have to ask, what's your basis for comparison?

    Most of these newer/ trendy food trucks are just trying to make a living doing something they love and as someone who has experienced quite a few of them, I think they are doing a good job. In the process, they are also opening the eyes of many food truck phobic Houstonians.

  2. Man...this review is kind of confusing. Do you want them to measure up to authentic Mexican taco truck standards, or gourmet restaurant standards? I've tried them and their food is good, period. It's also gourmet-leaning fare that I can ACTUALLY afford. That's the whole point of a food business, right? Making the customer happy?

  3. Next time, get the Korean cheesesteak with kimchi, if they have it.

    Yes, H-Town strEATs is a little pricey in general, but in my opinion, well worth it.

  4. Adding to this whole tortilla fiasco: The store bought tortillas are the ONLY bread item that StrEATs is currently purchasing at a store (which they've been looking into changing anyway). Each sandwich, dessert item and ball is fresh and housemade. Try finding THAT in some of the other "gourmet" food trucks. Do your research, man.

  5. Is this the truck that's charging $6 for chicken or tofu banh mi?

  6. Nevermind, that was Eatsie Boys.

  7. not sure if you were able to catch my old fav gourmet food truck, Haute Texan Tacos, but that one was top notch and well worth a rather inflated taco truck price. J. Jones was a man to be reckoned with, and he was as Mexican as Shaquil O'neil, but he knew had to whip up some delicious tacos. bascially, he had me atthe Tempura Fried Avocado Taco with Jicama Slaw.... i can't even type this without my mouth watering.