Featured Post

Ice Cream Chronicles - New Interactive Map

As you may have noticed, a new interactive Google Map containing all the location and links to all my Ice Cream Chronicles posts is now acce...

¡Vámanos! Columbus Food Adventures' Taco Truck Tour

Eat, drink and explore? Why, yes! thank you very much
Columbus Food Adventures (CFA), founded in 2010, has offered people a way to dig deeper into the burgeoning Columbus' food scene via their food tours. These tours are generally structured around a common food theme (desserts and meat offerings, for example) or are geographical in nature. For example, their excellent German Village Tour, the first CFA tour Mrs. 614orty-Niner and I partook in, offers not only delicious samples of the area's food but also historical perspective on this prominent neighborhood. My spouse (no, I'm not jealous) has also taken their excellent Coffee Tour, which provides a retrospective on coffee as a whole as well as the up-and-coming coffee scene in this area.

Andy, our knowledgeable CFA tour host
Spending three decades plus prior in Northern California, I got very familiar with Mexican cuisine in general. Much of it was based in more north/northwest Mexican regions (Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Sinaloa, for example) but I was thrilled when a place that was atypical (e.g. the Yucatan) would open and I could expand my perceptions of this country's overall cuisine. My spouse's interest in these street-level eats has also been opened up during her visits to the Bay Area and our trips to various mobile purveyors there.

Since moving to Columbus, we really hadn't done much sampling of this area's Mexican offerings, a fact that has been a bit disappointing to both of us. For me, the surprise of having so much in the way of this cuisine out here made it even more of a bugaboo for me. The Taco Truck Tour, a birthday present for my spouse, allowed both of us to explore that world together.

Andy, co-founder of the business along with his wife Bethia, turned out to be our host for the taco truck tour. He was an engaging host, providing solid knowledge of how this scene was established in the Columbus metro area and descriptions of the foods we were sampling. He also was more than happy to answer questions related to the tour as well as other Columbus food-related topics (and yes, there were plenty of those during our tour.)

Before we left, Andy explained that while there are two main areas for taco trucks in the metro area, the taco trucks on this tour were all generally based in the southwest portions of the metro area. Our first stop, La Popular, was representative of both what you get at a typical taco truck and the typical street taco.

The baseline street taco and menu at La Popular
Indeed, La Popular's menu reminded me of the typical taco truck menus back in the Bay Area, with perhaps a more comprehensive list of proteins than most (I was familiar with all of them except the jamon (ham.)) Everything that I knew to be typically in their street taco was here: two corn tortillas with the protein (in this case, barbacoa), plus diced onions, cilantro, and an assortment of sliced veggies. The barbacoa was quite tender and tasty, and everyone had the bonus option of sampling four different salsas rather than the standard red and green offerings (the avocado salsa was uniquely flavorful, but my spouse and I enjoyed them all.)

The spectacular Los Guachos, their glorious gringa, and a unique habañero add-on
Our next trip was to the granddaddy of the Columbus taco truck scene: Los Guachos. We quickly found out that the recently upgraded Los Guachos is really more of a taco trailer than a truck, a gleaming silver diner-like structure stationed in the parking lot of the La Boom nightclub. This is no accident: some of the more popular acts in the Mexican music world perform at La Boom and Los Guachos provides throngs of concert-goers the perfect opportunity to sate their hunger pangs.

Los Guachos has gained much local and national acclaim for their al pastor, which is essentially marinated pork that wrapped around a vertical rotisserie spit and slowly cooked. The al pastor is simply sliced off when needed for preparing an order.

My Bay Area experiences prior had been mainly with spicy al pastor and at places that did not use a pineapple on the top of the trompo to add carmelization to the meat. The sweet tang in Los Guachos I had from their brick and mortar location at Godown Road really caught me off guard, and I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would. However, a positive experience at another taqueria (Charritos, as referenced in this blog post) where a pineapple was utilized in the al pastor cooking convinced me that I owed Los Guachos a second chance. This second chance came in the form of their gringa, a variation on a quesadilla where a toasted flour tortilla is covered in grilled, caramelized cheese, with onion and cilantro on top of the al pastor.

Oh, my! This al pastor was completely different from what I had the first time. I did get a hint of sweet in the crispy bits, but the predominant profile was savory, juicy and just plain good. I peered closer at the trompo holding the al pastor and saw what looked to a gas jet flame at full force cooking and crisping up the surface. This setup is pretty much the optimal one, something that their location on Godown or almost any brick and mortar can't duplicate (our host Andy tended to agree with me, saying he didn't find the al pastor quite as tasty at that location either.)

Another interesting aspect is their large bowls of sliced vegetables and a habañero slaw (slices of those hot peppers mixed in with sliced red onions and soy sauce) that adds a unique complement to anything that you might order from Los Guachos.

Taqueria San Angel: Frying up the cecina and their tasty tlayuda
Afterward, we moved basically across the street to visit one of the newcomers to the local scene: the Oaxacan-based Taqueria San Angel. Again, my prior Charritos visit came into play here, as they had some Oaxacan specialties that I was eager to try at a future date. Luckily for me, one of those specialties, the tlayuda (something of a Mexican pizza or flatbread) was on our sampling docket. San Angel's version sported a black bean paste (black beans are a staple of Oaxacan cuisine) and was topped with tomato, lettuce, cheese and cecina, thin strips of beef that reminded me of the Filipino tapa meat I ate as a youngster. The tlayuda was tasty, but the real highlight for the spouse and I was their horchata. Unlike most versions around the area, San Angel's was the real deal, made by soaking rice for a prescribed amount of time, straining the liquid, and adding what seemed to be cinnamon and maybe even some nutmeg. This drink was nicely refreshing on what turned out to be a hot and humid tour day.

The menu at Mr. Grill, spicy veggies, and a gordita done right
By the time we got to Mr. Grill, which according to our host was the oldest operating taco truck in the Columbus area, many of the tour-goers' stomachs were getting close to full. Still, that didn't stop most of us from enjoying Mr. Grill's version of a gordita, a grilled masa shell filled with meat (in this case, carnitas), lettuce, tomato and chunks of queso fresco. This was obviously way better than any version advertised by a certain fast food chain I shall not mention here, and I finished mine off no problem. If I had my druthers, I would've grabbed some of the pickled jalapenos and carrots (always a treat whenever I found them at any Bay Area taco trucks) but I wanted to save room for the final two stops.

Finishing off with Las Delicias and their Mexican nieve ice creams
Back home, I was very familiar with paleterias (one of my favorites, La Michoacana, was a frequently visited destination on the way home) but not so much with nieve, a Mexican water-based ice cream that Las Delicias served. Based on the flavors that were available at the time plus our host Andy's advice of the flavors he liked in order of preference, my spouse went with his recommended nuez (walnut) and I went with the middle-of-the-pack vanilla just for something different. Andy's preferences turned out to be good reference: we both enjoyed the nuez the most. The nieve itself for both our choices was something akin to a very lightly-flavored, finely textured snow cone placed on a regulation ice cream cone.

La Plaza Tapatia: Everything Mexican you can want and then some
Back in the Bay Area, stores like Seafood City in Vallejo or 99 Ranch Market in Daly City were places where I knew I could find just about anything Philippine-oriented within along with an assortment of other goods. La Plaza Tapatia basically is the same style store with a Mexican focus. Products were all well arranged and plentiful, the produce aisles looked like they held quality products, and the butcher's area was bustling with many customers. In addition, anyone with a massive sweet tooth could get that fulfilled a few times over with their rather extensive candy section. Finally, a restaurant that serves food beyond the typical taco truck offerings is also on the premises and is a favorite gathering place for numerous people. After some browsing around, we ended up with more hydration in the form of Mexican soda pop, often found at many taco truck stands.

Columbus' culinary offerings are well worth discovering, and CFA offers a concise, knowledge-filled and, most importantly, fun way to explore various aspects of this diverse world. We highly enjoyed our second tour together with CFA, look forward to taking in another tour sometime in the future, and recommend their tours to visitors and locals alike.

2017 update: Columbus Food Adventures has expanded its tour line to include Breakfast and Brunch tours with famed local blogger Breakfast With Nick and a walking tour of Old Worthington and Grandview.  For more information, please consult the following social media links or give them a phone call at (614)440-3177.
Facebook     Instagram     Twitter     Website

No comments:

Post a Comment