Santa Fe’s food truck scene changes often enough that I’ve considered mounting a pushpin wall map to mark which truck is where from week to week. This is a volatile business: Truck activity, analyzed over time, would tell a story of promising new arrivals, abrupt relocations, and mysterious disappearances. In the past few months, we’ve lost a few worthy operations — YummyTown, Gnar Chow, and Tha Smoke Shack — and seen the arrival of the first all-vegan truck on the scene, called Root 66. (More about this one below.)
A planned hotbed of new trucks at 492 West Water Street, collectively called the Filling Station, got a splash of media attention in late 2017. Alas, there’s nothing there now, and two of the trucks that were supposed to anchor that space have yet to take off. The flagship of the fleet, Bang Bite (505-469-2345), now operates in the back of Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, at 2791 Agua Fría. Bang Bite’s Enrique Guerrero also runs the food operation inside the brewery, which is called the Kitchen @ Tumbleroot, Powered by Bang Bite. Out in front of Tumbleroot, you’ll see an independent food truck called Abo’s Caribbean Kitchen, which serves a small menu: salmon with coconut sauce, along with three kinds of chicken: curry, barbecue, and jerk. The barbecue chicken had the tender texture of a slow-cooked bird, a mild sauce, and three skillfully prepared sides: stewed lentils, turmeric-yellowed rice with peas, carrots, and green beans, and cucumber slices in vinegar.
Airport Road is a hub for trucks, home to a half-dozen mobile eateries that serve Mexican street-food favorites. My rule of thumb in this part of town is simple: Stop where you see the largest number of working men in pickup trucks. These guys know what they’re looking for — food trucks are a taste of home for many customers here — and they spread the word when they find it. My go-to these days is Compas Tacos (6161 Airport Road, 505-795-6979), which sits in an empty lot on a worn patch of dirt and gravel. The Compas menu is very typical of Airport Road, offering tacos, burritos, tortas, quesadillas, a “big hamburger,” and a handful of sides, including sausage, bacon, and ham. Prices are reasonable — $8.50 for an order of four tacos — and the food is made with obvious care. I had two tacos with carnitas and two al pastor. The carnitas were good — tender, crispy-edged little chunks of slow-cooked pork. The al pastor pork had been chopped finer, mixed with red chile and pineapple chunks, and heated on a grill. The meat was wrapped inside warm corn tortillas with tomato, lettuce, onion, and avocado slices, and the order came with a grilled jalapeño pepper, creamy refried beans, and soft, mildly spiced white rice. There was enough food here for two.
On Rodeo Road — just past the rodeo grounds if you’re heading west — look for a blue truck called Pupusería y Lonchera La Providencia (3920 Rodeo Road, 505-231-8617), which serves a variety of pupusas at $2.25 each. Salvadoran pupusas consist of savory fillings placed between two thick rounds of masa dough, which is heated on a grill to the point of partial charring. One Sunday, La Providencia attracted a number of eager patrons who had evidently just come from church. We all had to wait 10 or 15 minutes — the pupusas are made to order — and the wait was worth it. The masa was a perfect crunchy-soft blend; the fillings (cheese, beans, and pork) melted together into a hot, tasty layer.
In the parking lot of Artisan Santa Fe, you’ll find Palate (2601 Cerrillos Road, 505-386-6343), a bright-orange truck that serves a modern and creative mix of tacos (red-chile braised beef, shrimp, fried chicken, and avocado), a selection of “Not Tacos” (including a grilled cheese sandwich made with Havarti cheese, apple butter, arugula, and sourdough bread), and kids’ meals (a mini-quesadilla, string cheese, chicken strips) that cost only $4 each. I tried the avocado tacos and liked the blend of fresh ingredients — battered and fried avocado chunks, serrano slaw, and a crema sauce containing avocado and lime. Angelica Reed, who operates the truck with her husband, Chase, said the truck will be adding green chile stew, spicy pork stew, and tomato soup for winter.
Closer to the city center, the loss of YummyTown means that the food truck hub across the street from Kaune’s Neighborhood Market is down one, but Santafamous Street Eats remains (502 Old Santa Fe Trail, 505-269-2858). Run by Joseph Baca and Andrea Dobyns, both of whom had earlier careers in law enforcement, this truck serves an excellent breakfast burrito — bacon, potatoes, egg, cheese, and your choice of chile — for only $5. On a recent visit, they also offered beet tacos (“BEET, yes Beet not Beef,” as their sign says), calabacitas tacos, quesadillas, and a green chile cheeseburger.
Nearby, parked behind Santa Fe Brewing’s Brakeroom, a fresh face called Root 66 (510 Galisteo St.) is serving what one of its partners, Gail Patak, calls “plant-based comfort food.” This vegan truck had only been open a few weeks when I checked it out, serving a limited menu on weekends. I tried the Impossible BBQ Burger, a $12 plant-based cheeseburger made with a four-ounce patty (consisting mainly of wheat protein, potato protein, and coconut oil), a pretty convincing faux Gouda cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, barbecue sauce, and a light rémoulade sauce. The pretend beef had good texture and flavor — I preferred it to Beyond Meat, which I’ve had as a hamburger and as enchilada filling. It will be fun to try Root 66 again when the menu expands.
With the quickly changing food-truck landscape, it’s a good idea to call ahead before you go. The Airport Road trucks tend to close on Wednesdays, some aren’t open on weekends, and several tend to relocate now and then for special events. Most have a website or a Facebook page where you can look for the latest information. Meanwhile, here’s hoping that more food trucks both arrive and survive in the City Different. They’re consistently a good source for creative, affordable, made-to-order feasts. ◀