Some of the South Sound’s best taquerias are on wheels. While Vuelva a la Vida and Tacos Guaymas remain my favorite brick-and-morter taquerias for the freshest Mexican fast food in town, taco trucks have taken over as my go-to eateries for fast-service tortas, tacos and burritos.
I counted just a few trucks four years ago. That number has ballooned to 14 – and I may have missed a truck or two because of their migratory habits. Like birds, they’re known to move without notice and they keep irregular hours (now if we only could get them to flock).
Here are reviews of the five best trucks of the 14 visited. With so many trucks operating, I could afford to be picky. What kept the other nine trucks from my top five was that they lacked decent seating or skimped on freebies such as pickled carrots, radishes and salsa. In some cases, meats were dry or the execution was a bit off. Nevertheless, I've listed those trucks at the end of this blog post. Also, don't forget to check out the map.
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1. Taqueria La FonditaWhere: The gravel lot at 3737 S. G St., Tacoma; 253-472-2577, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. dailyThe scene: Be careful driving into the gravel lot, you’ll need good shocks to survive the pot holes. There’s covered seating with two tables. Regulars will recognize Jaime Beltran, who started there in 1998 before buying the truck from his bosses in 2009. This truck is in one of Tacoma’s most interesting restaurant neighborhoods (Gari of Sushi, Uncle Thurm’s, Vien Dong, El Zocalo Bakery). Please note, this Taqueria La Fondita is different from the stand-alone restaurant in the Proctor District.
The eats: The carnitas torta sandwich ($4.99) is the best I’ve bitten into. Lime and garlic tinged griddle-fried pork stuffed into a sturdy grilled bun with a smear of mayo, sliced avocados and finished with what every good torta needs: cilantro, onions, shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Fish tacos ($1.50), tilapia in a flour tortilla with lettuce and sour cream, remain some of the best in town. Meats here come with extra flavor and moisture.
2. Taqueria El AntojoLocation: 5445 Birmingham, Tacoma; 253-985-3930, elantojo.com, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. dailyThe scene: The truck is almost entirely covered; an overhang and enclosed seating area keep you dry. Warning, you must navigate steps to order. This is the mobile sibling of Antojo, a high-quality brick-and-mortar taqueria (three locations).
The eats: The 50-cent tacos are one of the best deals in town (spicy or fried pork and chicken only, three minimum). Aside from the taco deal, do order the carnitas and spicy pork; don’t miss the carne asada. A carnitas torta sandwich ($4.99) was layered with juicy meat, with a sturdy bun and a generous layer of cilantro and jalapenos. Ask for the “extras” and you’ll be rewarded with salsa, pickled carrots and jalapenos, sliced radishes, lime wedges and the one bonus I love that few trucks offer: whole grilled onion and jalapeno.
3. Taqueria Los AmigosLocation: 11802 E. Meridian, Puyallup; 253-405-9485The scene: Eat inside the bus or at the covered picnic tables outside. This is one of the most attractive trucks I’ve visited; it gleams inside, as does the picnic bench seating outside. A beer garden for the 21-and-older crowd sits adjacent to the bus.
The eats: A carne asada torta sandwich ($5) brimmed with crispy griddled meat and was held together with a puffy bun. A carnitas burrito ($5) came on a griddled tortilla with extra cilantro and onions. Meats here were moist and zinged with extra flavor. Order verde salsa on the side and you will be rewarded with lime-kissed avocado salsa. Jamaica, horchata and other aqua frescas also are served.
4. Sonia’s TacosWhere: 2516 Sixth Ave., TacomaThe scene: This bus is new to the location and replaces Taqueria Las Torres, now at 19th and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Seating at this taco truck always has been mostly indoors – tables inside the old check-cashing place adjacent to the truck. Diners can order from inside the building (there’s an order window outside, too). It looks as if it’s had a good cleaning and there’s a flat-panel television inside. Something odd: the outside menu didn’t have prices, but prices are listed inside.
The eats: A trio of tacos – chicken, spicy pork and steak, 99 cents each – were made with fragrant meat with a kicky dose of heat. The tortillas left an impression – much more tender than what’s offered at competing trucks. I’m a fan. Sopes – thick corn discs stuffed with beans and meat – came with a tender bite and moist crust. A coating of cotija cheese and big meaty portions made the sopes trio a bargain at $5.25
5. Taqueria El RanchoWhere: 204 Washington Ave., N., Orting, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. dailyThe scene: Big, white and clunky, this taco bus has personality. The converted school bus with seating inside holds stainless countertops and a dozen folding chairs. You can order outside from a window, but the interior is fairly roomy. If it looks familiar, it may be because it’s the same bus that last year was parked at Thrift City in Tacoma. This bus is cash only.
The eats: Two tacos ($1 each) with fried pork carnitas and spicy pork, were both executed nicely – the pork was fried on the grill, as carnitas always should be, and the spicy pork tasted garlicky with mild heat, pork juice pooled on my plate as I ate (I never said tacos were good for you). A chicken burrito ($5.50) was oversized, the portion impressive, this is a burrito that will dissolve into a mess unless you hold it precisely vertical.
More to explore: Tacoma
While the following nine trucks didn't make my top five list, they're listed here as a directory.
Taqueria Tres HermanosWhere: 2728 S. 12th St., Tacoma, 253-886-0213, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. SundaysDetails: Covered seating with two tables. I love that the torta sandwiches ($4.99) here are made with a smear of beans and melted cheese for extra moisture and flavor, although meats can trend dry.
Los 3 HermanosWhere: 7008 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, closed SundaysDetails: One table. Carnitas tacos (99 cents each) were flavorful, but soggy instead of griddled. Counter workers were pleasant, but goofed my order. On the plus side, they’re in the parking lot of the 6th Avenue Market, which has a great beer and wine selection. Note: The health department reports this truck is about to move. Stay tuned.
More to explore: Tacoma
Ricos TacosWhere: 5015 S. Center St.,Tacoma, 253-683-9073, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. dailyDetails: Seating is covered with two tables at this two-month-old truck, a salsa bar is built into the truck. A steak torta sandwich ($6.99) was knock-out good – tender meat and great flavor. Tacos ($1.20 each) were dry and a chicken burrito ($5.99) lacked flavor dimension. This truck has great potential.
Taqueria Las TorresWhere: 1901 Martin Luther King Jr., Way, Tacoma, 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays- Saturdays,closed SundaysDetails: No seating. Cash only. Carnitas, asado and chicken tacos all tasted dry and salty. A tamale on one visit was crusty.
More to explore: Tacoma
Taqueria El PicanteWhere: 1012 72nd St., E., Tacoma, 253-617-8017, closed SundaysDetails: One table out front. This newer bus is cash only. Tacos were loaded with flavor from a splash of salsa and extra cilantro and onions.
El Taco Super Bas Where: 904 72nd St., E., Tacoma, 253-830-5843, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays-SundaysDetails: Seating inside the bus. This used to be at 72nd and Park, now a stand-alone taqueria. This newer bus shows promise. I got three tacos (99 cents-$1.50 each). Adobado was gristly, but carnitas were executed nearly perfectly. Chicken was a touch dry. Friendly counter help.
More to explore: East Pierce
Taqueria CupatitzioWhere: 16618 Pacific Ave., S., Spanaway, closed Sundays.Details: No seating. Cash only. Tacos were overly dry, but pupusas, griddled discs made of corn dough and stuffed with beans, pork and cheese, were tasty (two for $5). No condiments except for salsa.
Mis Chiquititas/Puro SaborWhere: 12413 Meridian Ave., PuyallupDetails: Seating is covered in the rear. This truck used to serve pupusas, but no longer does. The meats here had great griddled texture, but were too salty. No condiments offered, you must request them.
More to explore: West Pierce
Taqueria TorresWhere: 14008 Purdy Drive N.W., Gig Harbor, 10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. SundaysDetails: Seating is a single table out front. I was charged slightly more than the prices listed, perhaps I was paying for the view of the Purdy Spit? A burrito ($3.87) was thin and a touch low on flavor, I needed the full container of verde salsa.
Our pledge to readers: Sue Kidd dines anonymously. All meals are paid for by The News Tribune.