As our spectacular New Mexico sun generously provides us with more hours of summer daylight, I think we can all agree that outside is where we want to be. The wildly popular world of mobile cuisine adds a whole new definition to the phrase “eating out.” Food trucks offer convenience and casual style that brick-and-mortar restaurants simply cannot compete with — plus the food-truck chefs I met are some seriously fun and talented individuals!
Food trucks can be found all around Southern New Mexico. Some have stringent schedules to which they adhere regarding times and locations, while others are truly defined by their mobility. That said, here are some tips and tricks I discovered for finding where these treasures on wheels are parked.
One sure bet where food truck vendors will assemble is the Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces, currently open for business on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. One of the permanent vendors on the market schedule is the Green Chile Paddy Wagon (their slogan is “All the things you love”) with its famous toppings of green chile salsa and bacon that you can add to anything on the menu.
Smiley Wood Fired Pizza and Cocina Mexicana Express are also fan favorites. You will find a bright-smiled Russ Smith aboard his cheerful red Happy Dog food truck. His wife, owner Mercy Smith, says, “Having the privilege to choose the menu and create the way we deliver service is the ultimate feeling for me.” Their most popular items are fried rice bowls and burgers, including a veggie burger that has been on the menu since Happy Dog’s inception, 13 years ago. Mercy also noted, “In some cases, a customer might be avoiding bread, so our burger on a bed of salad is more and more popular.” With the average check totaling about $9 at Happy Dog, they offer great food at an affordable price.
Next, take a trip down Solano Drive and Lohman Avenue in Las Cruces. These streets seem to attract a wide array of food trucks, especially in the evenings, likely based on rush hour traffic patterns. I ventured out one weeknight to find several options along these roads, such as On the Road, Milagro Street Tacos, Poki Poke, Paco’s Tacos, Chacho’s Tacos, Mariscos el Güero, and Tortas y Tacos el Buen Gusto.
I opted to try a food truck called The Kure, located at 1204 E. Lohman (alongside Porter House Ink) and typically open from 5 – 10 p.m. on weekdays. Owner/operator Andrea Porter is one of the friendliest people I have ever met and has a clear passion for her food and community. She suggested I go with the $12 jalapeño popper burger, which comes with fries and a 32-ounce drink.
The burger totally lived up to its name, with fresh sliced jalapeños sitting on a smooth layer of cream cheese to cool the heat. I tried their popular peach lemonade, and it did not disappoint! It had superb fruity and citrus notes that coupled with an overall bright and fresh flavor.
Okay, I admit that sometimes I visit multiple food trucks in one outing, and that night was no different. I also swung by Tacos JJ, typically located at 1395 E. Bowman Ave. in the early to late evenings. Their authentic Mexican cuisine includes seafood, tortas, tacos, burritos, and snacks. I tried an order of shredded beef barbacoa tacos for $7 that was slow cooked, with juicy and tender results. It came with an order of four street-style tacos with sides of cilantro, fresh onions, lime to squeeze on top, and two small containers, one with green salsa and one with red salsa. I couldn’t decide which to try so (of course!) I went with both. And to answer your smoldering question… yes, both were delicious, but I think the red chile de arbol was my favorite!
The last tip I have in locating these foodie treasures on wheels is simply this… think about food trucks taking grub to the pubs! Typically, local breweries and wineries partner with food trucks in an effort to pair their beer, wine, and spirits with exceptional food options that complement their drink menus. For instance, Amaro Winery partners with various trucks such as Fresh Made Food (whose motto is “Our name is our promise”), while Icebox Brewing Company on Picacho has become the home of Jim Bob’s BBQ truck.
One Saturday afternoon outside Amaro I had the opportunity to meet executive chef and owner Jason Leifeste of The New Mexican Food Truck. “My business began as an idea to infuse the local flavors of Las Cruces and the surrounding areas with global flavors from my experiences elsewhere,” says Jason. You can expect to pay an average of $7 – $8 per dish, and Jason’s unique twist is that you can customize many of his dishes, such as his popular street tacos and quesadillas. The New Mexican also serves vegan/vegetarian options such as grilled Mexican squash, a delicious veggie mix, and even grilled avocado tacos.
Outside Las Cruces city limits you still have several options to check out! BobBea’s Rolling and Grilling Catering went mobile in 2013 and can be found at the Landmark Mercantile in the small town of Mesquite almost every weekend. In Anthony, you can enjoy “Menudo Sunday” at a food truck called Shalom Kitchen. They also feature aguas frescas, carne asada fries, and a $5 chef’s choice rotating special. Operating out of El Paso, must-stop food trucks are Orange Cow Burgers and Off the Grill.
When in Canutillo, you can visit Flautas el Menny for super-affordable dishes. They even have Jarritos soft drinks from Mexico and Coca de Vidrio soft drinks, both of which come in traditional glass containers (which gives them an enhanced flavor if you ask me).
Next time you are in Ruidoso Downs, check out side-by-side food stands Pop’s Funnel Cakes and Pop’s Taters and Legs. Although they may not exactly be on wheels, Pop’s won’t let you down, fulfilling all your favorite festival-food cravings as well as brats on a bun, and pork and brisket sandwiches. In Alamogordo, you also have the self-proclaimed title “Southwest and Southern-style BBQ at its Finest” of AU JUS BBQ, in business since 1996.
Food trucks are truly in a league of their own, offering us a way to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience, while supporting local vendors who use fresh ingredients and cook for us from the heart. Next time hunger strikes, hit the hot streets for some hot eats at our area’s fine food trucks!
Written and photography by Desiree Bustamantes
Additional photography courtesy food trucks
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by LasCruces.com