Thursday, December 29, 2011

Association to Garces Can't Save Guapos Taco Truck

I unwittingly ordered a mushroom taco.

That pretty much sums up the experience I had at Guapos Taco Truck, the Jose Garces-owned lunch spot/tourist trap with wheels that is parked in the area of Philadelphia’s Love Park. I was walking over to the Academy of Music one day for the purpose of nailing down my seats for the Philadelphia Ballet’s annual showing of The Nutcracker when I saw the truck. I had heard about it, but had no idea it was so close to my place of business. I rarely traverse more than a block away from my workplace when looking for mid-day nourishment. Plus, the whole Occupy Philadelphia thing had me a little skittish when it came to approaching the City Hall area. I always felt like I might get attacked by a flash mob for the horrific crime of carrying a pricey burrito in the vicinity of such squalor. However, when I came upon the truck during the carrying-out of my daily tasks, I felt duty-bound to give it a try.

So why don’t I just jump straight to the whole mushroom taco debacle: I had $12 in my pocket. The first thing I ordered was the Green Chile Chicken tacos. Those were six bucks. I had a feeling that this was most likely going to be seen as gourmet dining due to the Garces name association. This translates to “not filling.” So I wanted to get another order of tacos. The Carnitas tacos were $7. So were the short rib versions. This left me with one other choice in the $6 category. It was called Hongos con Rajas. I don’t speak Spanish and I could not spy a menu. While a rational man probably wouldn’t have taken the leap, I simply assumed it was something like rice and beans. I was utterly shocked when I discovered that what I was actually expected to eat was a combination of poblanos (OK!), queso blanca (sure!), a fine salsa (excellent!), onions (not my favorite, but fine!), and MUSHROOMS (F*CK NO!). Anyway, after drowning those puppies in hot sauce (that was disappointingly made for gringos), I suffered through one. It tasted OK surprisingly, but that was due to the fact that the salsa that came with the taco was quite liberally applied. The texture of the mushroom was horrible, like trying to chew condensed rubber. Seriously, I have no idea how vegetarians do it. After I choked down the first one, the soft shell for the second one began to fall apart so I decided to drop it out of its cocoon and try to avoid the mushroom with a fork. But, oh yeah, the mushroom was the MAIN INGREDIENT (Mr. Garces, can you please put that on the cart’s main signage for idiots like me?). I quite wisely dumped the contents of that second taco into the closest trashcan. At least I can say that I have now tried a mushroom that wasn't baked into a brownie. And that I will never EVER do that again.

For the overall impression I had of the cart, I will focus on the Green Chile Chicken tacos. After all, I knew what was in this dish and ordered it of sound mind and body. While it was an improvement over “complete revulsion,” I would have to say that my feeling about the Chicken tacos was “Eh.” I’m sure they were “authentic” as hell , but they didn’t supply much in the way of flavor. The chicken was accompanied by white onion, radish, cilantro, crema, and queso fresco, yet, despite that seeming cavalcade of accoutrements, it just tasted bland. Even the hot sauce I showered the dish with could not bring it to life (because, as I mentioned before, it was virtually heat-free). Not good when you consider that you are spending a Washington and a Lincoln for two tacos that are thin enough to make you want to order Chinese food ten minutes later.

There are positive points to Guapos Taco Truck. The staff was very friendly. The truck was very pleasing to the eye, what with its color deriving from a host of different colored beer bottle caps adhered to the truck's body. The mushroom taco may even give you a wonderful internal cleanse due to its ability to induce vomiting in the strongest of constitutions. However, it is hardly worth citing these positives when you consider that the food doesn’t really taste exceptionally great, it is relatively expensive, and, even if bland chicken is your thing, it isn’t filling. Mushroom or no mushroom, my excursion to Guapos Taco Truck was a flat-out bust. I won’t be going back.

Guapo's Tacos (Mobile Cart) on Urbanspoon

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