As many of you already know I am a big fan of pointing my jeep in a random direction and exploring the street food options in my home city of Winnipeg. This long weekend the direction was simple to choose, I headed downtown to the afternoon site of the El Torrito taco truck.
The Winnipeg street food scene has long been dominated by scores of smokie carts and burger trucks that have a strangle hold on the Canadian street food market. But just last month I began hearing rumblings of something exciting and new, at first I thought people were talking about a trip down to Mexico or chatting about a Food Network program they had seen on taco vendors. But they insisted there was indeed a taco truck in Winnipeg, and they even had a following on Twitter.
Intrigued to the point of obsession I made it my mission to find this elusive taco truck and taste its bill of fare. Indeed El Torrito (@ElTorrito1) does have a large following on Twitter and a write-up in the local pages of Metro.
When I came upon the truck at its downtown lunchtime location, I could smell and hear the difference from across Portage Avenue. The aromas of savoury meats being grilled and the pumping music from a boom box had a small crowd wondering what this apparition was, unaccustomed to having a Mexican option the crowd watched as I bravely strode up to the front window.
Immediately a friendly face appeared from inside and offered me the daily El Grandé special. Three tacos (beef or chicken) and an authentic chorizo dog with chips and drink for $10. How could I say no to that?
As I ordered the cook and co-owner Ian Bowman smiled at my enthusiasm and shouted over the music how hot I wanted my tacos. I replied “hot, but don’t make my face melt off.” He laughed and said with a sly grin, “but I like to make faces melt!”
The tacos themselves are based on traditional Mexican street food, if you’re looking for hard-shelled tacos covered in cheese and cliché then you’ve come to the wrong truck my friend. Simple is the name of the game here, and fresh is how they taste. Hot grilled meat, some salsa verdé, tomato and a hit of cilantro wrapped up in a warm tortilla is what you get. A lime on the side and some chili sauce for heat makes for simple street taco perfection.
The chorizo dog was also very good, a mild pork sausage also served with salsa verdé, onions and tomato was a welcome break from the smokie sausages that Winnipeggers are accustomed to.
Overall my first impressions of El Torrito were good although the tacos seem a bit small and not overly laden with meat, by local standards they are still a bargain at 3 for 5 dollars. The condiments are fresh and the service is enthusiastic, more than once I saw the cook poking his head out to see if I was enjoying my lunch.
So if you’re in need of a change look the taco truck up on twitter (@ElTorrito1) and head down for a bit of spice this summer.