by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
Taco wagons, mobile catering trucks, roach coaches—call them what you will, but they all mean the same thing: FOOD.
Wandering the roads near Sanger one dark Thursday evening, my daughter and I found and sampled three wagons of wonder. El Vera, from Queeny’s Catering, was hidden on O Street, south of North Avenue, behind Gong’s Market and the U Can 2 gym, a dreary and somewhat scary location, although a string of soft-toned, color-changing LED lights gave a festive glow to the place. La Mexicana is on E. Kings Canyon Rd. (Highway 180), across from Centerville School, and there is a nice metal-topped shelter and tables for dining at the site. Morales Catering was in the parking lot of the gas station on the southeast corner of 180 and Academy Avenue, with twisty fluorescent bulbs around the awning providing lots of light. At Morales Catering, we tried the Torta ($4.50) and the Nachos Chile Verde with Everything ($4.00). The nachos are piled with sour cream, guacamole, cheese, meat, beans, and tomatoes atop several layers of chips, with a depth-charge salsa that has a delayed fuse which explodes in your mouth about the time your defenses have been dropped. The torta is a lot like what Roseanne Barr used to call a loose-meat sandwich: meat, lettuce, and tomato on a flatbread that resembles a French roll run over by a semi; it’s messy and bready, but the flavor builds on you and makes you want more. La Mexicana had the largest menu variety, and we ordered Fajitas de Res, Arroz y Frijoles ($7.50). Sections of jalapeno loiter nonchalantly amid the bell peppers and strips of beef, with a wedge of avocado on the side. There are things in the thick salsa; it’s Alive with heat! The rice is nice and soothing after the salsa has its way with you.
There wasn’t much left at El Vera when we arrived, so we went for the Asada Combination ($6.50). Another customer told us, “The salsa is good enough [that] I like to drink it!” I wouldn’t go that far—I’m rather fond of my stomach lining; I’d like to keep it. The salsa is not at killer intensity, but it does have a definite presence. The combo included a handful of Fritos chips, and a bed of lettuce cradling two torpedo-like jalapenos that scared me just to look at them.
The flaky corn tortillas looked human-made instead of machine-extruded, and they were perfect for loading with succulent carne asada (one bite, and you hear choirs of angels) and globs of cheese with sautéed onions that still had some crunch to them. Slabs of avocado and vinegar-laced carrot rounds added color. My daughter had to put the bag on the back seat, because it was too hot for her to hold.
Of the three excursions in edibility, we would name El Vera as our top choice, although the salsa at La Mexicana and the torta at Morales Catering should be singled out for special mention. Obviously, your results may differ, and we only tried one or two dishes at each location, and there are many roaming restaurants that we didn’t try. Maybe we didn’t have a cook’s best work, or we don’t appreciate good food when we eat it. Be aware that these carts aren’t always in the same place; I found one half a block from where I expected to find it.
By the way, we chased it all down with a mammoth-yet-cheap horchata from a mini-mart (am-pm). Tasty, even if it isn’t authentic.
What’s your favorite roving food provider?
…and…Why should I follow you halfway across the Valley to find this place?