By Rina Rapuano
Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011
A guy sticks his head out of the shiny black truck adorned with a Day of the Dead-like turquoise-and-brick-red horned skull. "Colin! How long were you waiting?" he asks.
"Five minutes," comes the reply. Colin gets a thumbs up.
"Emily?" A freckled 20-something steps toward the window. "This is your second time, isn't it?" She nods. Thumbs up.
The questions aren't just a great way for the taqueria on wheels to connect with its customers. They are also smart business, which the owners know a little something about. Part-time travel agent Jason Martin, 38, and former commercial pilot Joey Belcher, 36, have their fingers in plenty of pies: specifically, Dangerously Delicious Pies, the pie shop's food truck and the Atlas District's Sticky Rice restaurant.
Their latest endeavor, Chupacabra, hit the streets Nov. 7. Its name, shared with a mythical Latin American animal said to suck the blood of goats, embodies as much hipster irony as the tattooed owner who takes orders with a PBR apron slung around his waist.
Chef de cuisine Matt DiGangi, 33 (also the chef at Sticky Rice), is making at least four types of tacos every day, plus soups and an excellent chili-spiked guacamole offered as an accent to tacos (75 cents) or with warmed tortilla chips ($4).
Without some doctoring, the tacos can taste dry. Visit the salsa bar, where you'll find DiGangi's sweet-spicy green tomatillo salsa and his mouth-stinging red chipotle salsa.
Of the tacos, we liked the al pastor ($3 each), stuffed with marinated pork and pineapple; the carne asada ($2.50 each), filled with tender beef marinated in a paste of four types of chilies; and the pollo sofrito ($2.50 each), packed with long-simmered, shredded chicken.
But our favorite is the same as DiGangi's: the vegan pumpkin ($2.50 each) tacos, graced with cumin-scented pumpkin, sweet potato, outstanding tequila beans and crunchy pumpkin seeds.
In a few weeks, the restaurateurs plan to begin Soupacabra, a day of the week when the taco truck will serve only soups. We look forward to tasting more of the tortilla soup ($4), a deep, rich chicken broth packed with shredded chicken, lime, cilantro, tortilla chips and avocado slices. Pork posole soup ($4) with hominy is also good, if a bit oily.
And there are plans to open a brick-and-mortar taqueria in the Atlas District in the spring. We can't say the same for its gruesome predecessor, but we're happy to have more of these Chupacabras lurking around town.