The onset of summer means one thing: It's open season on taco trucking. Here's where to head first, and what to order.
More than a decade after the first taco truck popped up on the West Side-the agua fresca-slinging Little Mexico that unfortunately shuttered a few years ago-Mexican mobile food is stronger than ever with an estimated 40 taco trucks plying their trade in neighborhoods all across Columbus. Truck owners hail from Michoacan, Jalisco, Mexico City, San Luis Potosi, Oaxaca and other parts of Mexico, each carving out a niche specialty (think Los Guachos' al pastor). Much has evolved as trucks have changed hands and new players have entered the game. At every step, the food has gotten better and the selection more interesting. Now that it's taco-trucking weather, here are some of our favorite picks.
Taco Nazo For the full range of quintessential taco truck basics, Quicho-what everyone calls the owner from Michoacan-and his crew are hard to beat. Tacos, burritos, gorditas and tortas are all top-notch here. Even so, it's the special extras that keep us coming back. Among those is their campechano filling, a savory mix of carne asada and chorizo that can be ordered in any of the aforementioned dishes. On weekends, their tender and moist tamales (red or green sauce with chicken) are well worth the side trip. Their specials, most recently a chicken mole gordita, are consistently excellent. Almost all trucks carry horchata (a sweet rice milk drink that tastes similar to rice pudding), but Taco Nazo's version stands out among them.
2200 E. Dublin-Granville Road, Northeast Side, 614-390-6346. Located near Lev's Pawn Shop, look for the Walgreen's sign on the northeast corner of state Route 161 and Maple Canyon. Summer hours (subject to change) are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
El TacorriendoLike Taco Nazo, this truck mostly sticks to the basics, but it stands out by featuring exceptional takes on unusual proteins. The lengua (beef tongue) is the city's standard bearer with its fork-tender texture and perfect balance of seasoning and beef flavor, and their tripa (tripe) excels by virtue of its relatively mild flavor and crispy griddled crunch. Thanks to the wide protein menu, Tacorriendo is the perfect place to order a slew of tacos with a different meat selection in each, and the adjacent dining room makes going back for seconds convenient.
3344 Allegeheny Ave., East Side, 614-560-0497. Located across from the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center at 420 N. James Road, El Tacorriendo is typically open daily from 10:30 a.m. through 10:30 p.m.
Los Guachos This silver trailer with counter seating and a neon open sign is where the three-location chainlet earned its stripes. Los Guachos is almost certainly the best-known taco truck (if not taco eatery) in the city and with good reason-its succulent al pastor (spit-roasted pork) is the stuff dreams are made of. They're happy to shave piles of it into tacos, tortas and their signature dish, the al pastor gringa (a flour tortilla with caramelized cheese, pork, onions, cilantro and pineapple). Don't overlook the condiments, including chili-free avocado sauce and wickedly spicy habanero and onion topping.
461 Commerce Square, West Side, 614-638-8806. The truck is parked just off Sullivant Avenue in the Club La Boom parking lot (and across the street from Taqueria San Angel). Hours are typically 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday to Sunday, open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Taqueria San Angel The owners of this West Side truck hail from the center of Mexican gastronomy, Oaxaca, and their relatively new truck specializes in exceptional renditions of Oaxacan favorites. Tlayuda is an iconic dish of the region that, at first glance, looks like a sizable Mexican pizza. It starts with a large (over a foot in diameter), thin, baked cornmeal tortilla topped with black beans, crumbled chorizo sausage, lettuce, avocado, tomato, Oaxacan string cheese and a few thin slices of beef. As if that wasn't good enough, Taqueria San Angel also features a climate-controlled dining room (a modest collection of tables and chairs) in an adjacent building. So it's a great spot to stop, rain or shine.
4005 Sullivant Ave., West Side, 614-589-0989. Open daily for lunch and dinner.