The Gods have been shining on us lately. Everything seems to be going our way. And I am eating it up. Literally.
I recently told you about the Colombian food restaurant we fell in love with and now this.
We’ve been hard at work on a top-secret project (which is coming together beautifully, I might add…stay tuned for more info) and now that everything is shaping up, I put an APB out in search for a taco truck.
No, not just any taco truck. An authentic taco truck with great tacos. The messages started coming in and two foodcentric friends told me of a taco truck out by UTSA. That was it! Chela’s Tacos. And we were off.
Granted, we had two missions in mind. To eat great tacos, was first and foremost the primary goal. And if they were as sabroso (flavorful) as we thought they might be, we may have just found another missing piece of the puzzle for our top-secret project.
When you pull up to the former-horse-trailer-turned-red-taco-truck, you’ll know you’ve hit pay dirt. You’ll see the truck immediately and there will likely be assorted parked cars and hungry people waiting for their tacos.
As you walk up to the truck, you will be warmly greeted by the one and only Chela and her husband Martin, or as she lovingly calls him, Guerito.
The menu is quite expansive for a taco truck. They offer breakfast tacos all day long (from 8 am until 3 pm) and have a laundry list of other exquisite tacos including daily specials (see below) and even a secret VIP menu.
Thursdays, I have come to learn is when Chela and Martin pull out all of the stops and feature a super special daily special. Sometimes it’s torta ahogada, posole, tamales, puerco adobado or something else that one of their customers has been requesting.
While bellied up to the counter as we savored our tacos, lots of regulars came by and Chela knew them all by name. Not surprisingly, many of the regulars are Mexicans who now live here. There are also plenty of gringos, Pakistanis and people of many other nationalities who enjoy Chela’s and Martin’s gift for making great tacos. Everyone who comes to Chela’s Tacos, comes for a taste of home. And there is a constant flow of customers as seen in the pictures below.
As we ate our tacos, we quietly watched the seasoned veterans order and that was how we found out about the VIP menu. It seemed to be an unwritten code or badge of honor to order “special” tacos. The more frequently you come, seemingly, the more “special” your tacos can be.
For example, La Gringa is the carne guisada taco but with melted cheese on the bottom. We likened this to a strawberry daquiri which a woman would order, but not a real man, hence the name La Gringa. El Gringo would have been an insult unto itself, but calling the taco La Gringa was way too funny. The cochinita pibil VIP is topped with marinated (escabeche) onions. You can order the carnitas taco baja with pico de gallo and escabeche.
I am embarrassed to admit this, but, on our first visit last week, I ate three tacos and David ate four. Just to clarify, these are not taquitos (little tacos). They are serious. So, yes, we made utter pigs of ourselves, but they were so divine and we were having such a good time, I couldn’t help but to keep eating and continue ordering a different taco to try.
I kicked things off with a cochinita pibil taco on a corn tortilla and David started with a carnitas de Michoacan. The unctuous pork was sublime, the depth of flavor was right on and the corn tortilla magical. We only eat corn tortillas and these were really good. It had flavor, was not doubled and neither did it fall apart on the first bite.
Our second round included a taco al pastor for me and a chicken mole taco for David. Again, these were winners. In fact, they were so good, we decided we’d incorporate lunch and dinner right then and there and dove head first for round 3.
I had a shrimp taco and David went for the pork with salsa verde. The shrimp packed quite a punch of flavor in that my lips were burning beautifully after I finished. The pork with salsa verde were chunks of pork slowly simmered in this gorgeous green sauce made with tomatillos. David thinks that next time we go, he’ll bring along a plate of rice and beans and ask Chela and Martin to cover the rice with the pork and salsa verde. I think this was his favorite, by far.
For dessert, Chela brought him a taco deshebrada (shredded beef) VIP which has cheese on the bottom.
On our second visit, we promised ourselves we would each only have two tacos. But that promise was quickly broken after we ate the second one. We knew we needed one more. Just because.
Today I had another cochinita pibil, a pork with salsa verde VIP and a carnitas with pico de gallo and escabeche which is known as the guero. David had to try a breakfast taco and went with the chorizo con huevo (Mexican sausage with scrambled egg). The chorizo is homemade and not greasy like most chorizos, but supper yummy. He also had a pork with salsa verde taco VIP and then he concluded this visit with a lengua taco. That would be tongue. And he said it was delicioso and I believed him.
They have an ice chest full of a variety of sodas and water, and they even have Mexican Coke. In a bottle. Now, that’s un gran sabor de Mexico (a real taste of Mexico).
While most of the tacos are so full of flavor and perfectly seasoned that they need nothing, there are three salsas to choose from. The salsa roja (red sauce), salsa verde (green sauce) and then the chile de arbol, which is serious stuff. I used just a bit and ay caray (wow)!
Everyone is so friendly and happy to be with people of like minds…people who crave and appreciate authentic, home cooked food. It was as if we had all known one another for years. There was an energy at the taco truck that is indescribable yet palpable. Warm. Ingratiating. Passionate. Full of love. A real treasure.After eating, we stuck around for a while and continued talking with the customers as well as Chela and Martin. David ran into an old business associate and I helped out a first-timer who didn’t quite know what to order. In return, he shared his favorite places to eat Arabic food in town, since he was from Saudi Arabia.
When I was very young, my grandmother taught me that in order to cook well, you had to cook with love. Chela and Martin must have learned that, too, because with each bite of every taco, I wanted more. And even after gorging on three tacos, I think I’ll go back every week and try a few of the ones I have missed. And to get an abrazo (hug) from Chela and Martin, too.
It’s almost like being in Guadalajara, Mexico City or the Yucatan but it’s only a short drive from your casa or your oficina. So take a 20-minute vacation to taco heaven, because it does exist.
UTSA Boulevard and IH-10, towards UTSA, about 1/2 mile past Costco on the right side of the road
Open everyday except Sundays, from 8 am until 3 pm