July 6, 2007


Katrina brought a wave of Hispanics (JOHN MORENO GONZALES, 7/02/07, Associated Press)

For proof that Hurricane Katrina is transforming the ethnic flavor of New Orleans — and creating altogether new tensions — look no further than the taco trucks.

Lunch trucks serving Latin American fare are appearing around New Orleans, catering to the immigrant laborers who streamed into the city in search of work after Katrina turned much of the place into a construction zone. [...]

The mobile luncheonettes are operated mostly by Mexican and Central American families.

"I'm looking for an opportunity. That's why I left my country, and that's what led me here," said Maria Fuentes, 55, who came to the United States from Mexico a decade ago and settled in New Orleans after the storm. "This is the first time I've owned my own business and my dream is to have traditional restaurants, not trucks, all over this town."

The six-wheel vans have Spanish names emblazoned on their sides like "La Texanita" and "Taqueria Buen Gusto," and, like street vendors in Latin America, serve such dishes as carne asada, or grilled steak, pork and chicken, garnished with sliced radishes and diced cilantro.

Beverages include tamarind- and guava-flavored drinks, often in the old-time bottles that require an opener, just as in Latin America.

The trucks usually park on street corners in areas with heavy construction activity, attracting laborers and native New Orleanians alike.

"It's better than Taco Bell. I can tell you that," said Michael Gould, 53, who lined up at Fuentes' truck during a recent lunch hour.

There was a pizzeria near our grandparents summer house -- in Brightwaters, NY -- that used to send a truck around at night selling slices in the neighborhood. How cool would a taco truck be?

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 6, 2007 4:19 PM

They're just noticing now?????

Posted by: Sandy P at July 6, 2007 4:38 PM

Yet again, you know who doing jobs that Americans won't do.

Pizza being sold from the back of truck. Sounds like heaven. My sheltered childhood was such that I didn't even know pizza existed until college ... and I grew up in NYC.

Posted by: erp at July 6, 2007 4:45 PM

Let's just hope no turf wars break out!

Posted by: kevin whited at July 6, 2007 6:30 PM

Yeah, I was reading that article and thinking, "Geez, I wish taco trucks would come around to where I work!"

Posted by: Bryan at July 6, 2007 6:43 PM

It's been my experience in taquerias here in Chicago that carne asada and especially chicken are on the menu for gringos -- often those are the tacos where they slather on the chopped lettuce and tomato, whereas the Mexicans all order pork, either al pastor (kinda similar to gyro meat, heavily seasoned, on a spit) or carnitas -- steamed and shredded, or beef barbocoa -- steamed to the point of melting. These more traditional tacos just have a simple topping of cilantro and chopped white onion, with green or red salsa on the side.

It really is the best fastfood in the world.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at July 6, 2007 9:38 PM

Lots of taco trucks out here. Some are considered to be quite good, but there are so many good taquerias that I've never tried anything from a truck.

Love the idea of a pizza truck. When I was growing up in Warren Michigan in the '60s, a truck came by once a week selling fresh potato chips (Charles Chips) in a brown metal tin.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 6, 2007 11:46 PM

Jim, Please stop. How can you be so cruel when all we have around here is Taco Bell.

Posted by: erp at July 7, 2007 7:35 AM

erp, how is that even possible?

Posted by: Mike Beversluis at July 7, 2007 10:35 PM

Mike, I think it's Chicom plot to force us to spend our retirement pittances at the Chinese restaurants.

Posted by: erp at July 8, 2007 9:16 AM