If you’re not a devotee of quesabirria yet, you’re about to be. With a holy trinity of fall-apart shredded beef cooked in a rich roasted chile stew, gooey melted cheese and crispy red-tinged corn tortillas, there’s a reason people are lining up at Mexican food trucks like Sebastopol’s Jalapeno Mexican Grill, frequent tap room regular El Paisa and others serving this Tijuana-born snack.
But that’s not the only delicious dish ramping up the popularity of the often-underappreciated street food of Mexico. Throughout the county, a new generation of Mexican food truck owners are making Instagram-worthy dishes with fresh, authentic ingredients that appeal to a broadening audience of eaters.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If the line is long, you know the food is good.
From aguachiles to hongos and tlayuda, we’ve been on a delicious chase for the up-and-coming taco trucks of Sonoma County.
Rodrigo Mendoza is a former Willi’s Seafood chef who made the leap to a mobile kitchen several months ago. He runs El Charro Negro with business partner Ricardo Ibarra in a brilliantly colored, hashtagged and social media-ready truck that’s impossible to miss at its usual Roseland spot, the new Mitote Food Park slated to officially open this fall (665 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa).
The food truck also happens to be home of the best ocean-to-table tacos and tostadas in Sonoma County. Hands down. No question.
At Charro Negro, Mendoza has leveraged his passion for seafood into a menu filled with impeccably fresh shrimp, fish, calamari, oyster and octopus. His fried oyster and calamari tacos are piled so high with sauce, meat, pickled onions, fresh avocado and tart crema that the corn tortillas are buried underneath.
“It’s what you would eat on the beaches of Mexico,” he said.
Aguachiles are another specialty of the mobile kitchen, a juicy ceviche made with raw shrimp marinated in lime. Mendoza does three versions — mango; “verde” with green serrano chile and “negro” with roasted chiles, garlic and onions. The mix is served in a tall cup, complemented with fresh cilantro, jicama, pickled onions, avocados and cucumbers rimmed with hibiscus and mole salt. They’re a ridiculously refreshing summer treat.
Mendoza hopes to expand his offerings in the future to include seafood dishes from Brazil, Italy and other regions.
Lucha Sabina, Antojitos Victoria
Usually parked near Charro Negro is Lucha Sabina (635 Sebastopol Rd, Santa Rosa), serving Oaxacan street food with a focus on mushrooms and incredible tlayuda (Mexican pizza) along with more traditional fare and Antojitos Victoria, where you can watch fresh huaraches (a sort of fat tortilla shaped like a shoe) being pressed inside the truck and get hard-to-find snacks like huitlacoche (corn smut that’s similar to the earthy flavor of mushrooms) and beef tortas for a song.
One of the busiest trucks in Sonoma County is Jalapeno Mexican Grill, which typically parks at a gas station on south Gravenstein Highway (1080 Gravenstein Hwy S, Sebastopol). On the weekend, fans line up for their spicy quesabirria tacos and “pizza-dillas,” large flour tortillas dipped in meat sauce (hence their bright orange color) and stuffed with meat and cheese. Grab a cooling mango agua fresca while you wait.
There’s a running debate about whether the quesabirria from the wandering Tacos El Paisa truck are better than Jalapeno’s. We tried both, and while Jalapeno’s were more flavorful, there was more cheese in those from Tacos El Paisa. You’ll have to try both, but make sure you order a side of consomme, a rich red broth for dipping your crispy tacos.
Know that sometimes the trucks aren’t where they’re supposed to be and information about times and locations can be a little confusing. Facebook seems to have the most updated information, but your best bet is to just take your chances and head out. There’s no doubt you’ll find something delicious on your journey to taste and explore the comfort cuisine of Mexico.
If you go, bring cash, because many trucks don’t accept credit cards. If you’re unsure what a menu item is, just ask. You will need to wear a mask when ordering and picking up your food. Some trucks have phone-in ordering to speed things up.