This is a food stand having reached a state of semi-permanence. Yes, it’s a taco truck, but they have erected a roof structure over some picnic tables in the parking lot of Trovadores’ Cafe – which looks to be a Hispanic theater for performance art. My inner Spanish teacher wants to call this place “El Gran Taco,” but there it is on the awning, clear as day, “El Grand Taco,” and so it is. I recently passed by and noticed they had a whole truck painted a bright orange instead of their former light blue trailer, and I was worried it was a different truck, or different proprietors. But the permanent awning remained, and today I ordered from the same smiling faces I have so many times before. The truck has changed but the food remains the same, and I happily ate my tacos while a gentleman with brush and jar of paint carefully added pictures of tortas and licuadas back onto the side panels.
I had passed this truck a number of times before pulling over; eventually you just have to obey the call of cheap street tacos. In fact, there are quite a few taco trucks dotting the stretch of Bingle/N Houston Rosslyn between 290 and 249 – but El Grand Taco has emerged as one of my favorites after discovering the dishes they do best. Honestly, once you’ve had the asado chicken from a truck like El Norteño, it’s tough to go back to eating it any other way. And the day I came back at the behest of a barbacoa and carnitas craving they unfortunately didn’t have any of either, so I went for a trifecta of alternatives: fajita, chicharron, and lengua. It was actually the lengua (tongue) that was my favorite of the three, soft and tender, boiled with onion and spices. The chicarron (pork belly) was extremely fatty and boiled in the same fashion as the lengua rather than fried, or other preparations.
But once I hit upon the barbacoa, al pastor, and even the less adventurous fajita on subsequent trips, I haven’t looked back.
The cheek is one of the most delicious bits off virtually any animal, from cows to pigs – even fish. The barbacoa (cow’s cheek) is rich and savory here, slow-cooked and so tender it’s almost stew-like. Al pastor is a style of cooking pork related to shawarma and gyro styles where lamb is spitted vertically and servings shaved off. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the al pastor at El Grand Taco exhibits the same subtle use of spices like cinnamon or allspice that is also one of my favorite things about Greek lamb or sausage and leaves my mouth watering until my next visit. In fact, it’s this al pastor that I’ve been tempted to order on the scale of a torta rather than just a taco size portion. Even the common fajita beef is amazing, on corn tortillas of course – and all of the above are dressed with onion, cilantro, a huge chunk of avocado, crumbles of queso fresco, a squeeze of lime, and a dash of enlivening salsa verde from the plastic bottle they’ll hand you upon request.
I feel like channeling Sir Mix-A-Lot here when I say, you can do side-bends or sit-ups, but please don’t lose that butt. El Grand Taco, you can paint your truck all you want, just don’t change that pastor and barbacoa.