Last week á la in Edmonds. This week I bring tidings of a different kind of roundup, the Mobile Food Rodeo happening Saturday in Seattle's Interbay neighborhood. An expected 26 food trucks hailing from the vicinities of Seattle and Portland will convene behind the Interbay Whole Foods market to tout their sweet and savory wares.
Seattle has previously seen food truck rumbles via the inaugural Mobile Chowdown and its progressively grander sequels, throngs of salivating patrons queued two dozen deep for Korean tacos. While the Puget Sound region has a long way to go in terms of matching Portland in mobile restaurant volume and organization, our locale’s love of food trucks is growing steadily.
To gear up for the Mobile Food Rodeo, earlier this week my dining companion and I met at one of the scheduled participants, El Camión. El Camión is in fact an empire of three separate food trucks, one of them permanently parked at 117th and Aurora in north Seattle. The northern satellite of El Camión—the name literally translating to “The Truck” in Spanish—rests on a terrace parcel overlooking the parking lot of Home Depot. The location’s downside is that the view is far from scenic; the upshot is that the hard-to-miss orange Home Depot sign is a good Aurora Avenue landmark if you’re searching out El Camión for the first time.
For those unfamiliar with the country's contemporary food truck scene, street-side fare has evolved beyond hot dogs and pretzels. Mobile units are now miniature restaurants, gourmet kitchens on wheels. Both in terms of quality and speed of delivery, food truck fare should not be equated to the typical quick-serve restaurant. Good grub takes time regardless of a kitchen’s size, and as dinner hour dawned at El Camión my dining partner and I had a modest wait for our plates.
Once our food was in hand, we settled ourselves inside the truck’s adjacent dining tent. Of note, this was not my maiden visit to an El Camión outpost, as I’d checked out the south Seattle truck a little over a year ago. In the interest of controlling variables, I brought along the same dining companion who had accompanied me previously. I recalled being envious of her huevos con chorizo breakfast burrito ($6.85), and suggested that this time we order one to share.
Available all day, El Camión’s breakfast burritos are fat with morning-friendly scrambled eggs and cheese along with vegetables, ham or spicy Mexican chorizo sausage. The hefty torpedoes are a hearty meal for one, and still generous for a pair of diners with a more petite hunger. I particularly appreciated that the flavor and consistency of the burrito’s black beans, still individually discernible rather than being mashed into oblivion. More dispersed were the scrambled eggs, tiny pale yellow bits intermingled throughout the filling.
“I feel like it needs sour cream,” I mused over bites of burrito.
“I’m pretty sure you said that last time,” advised my friend.
Apparently I can be counted on for consistency when it comes to condiments.
The burrito’s chorizo wasn’t smacking of spice the way I’d remembered it, and I would have been wise to trot back over to the service window for a choice from El Camión’s spectrum of salsas.
El Camión offers familiar favorites like tacos, standard burritos, quesadillas and torta sandwiches with the diner’s choice of no less than 11 fillings ranging from grilled vegetables to chicken to beef tongue. We tested the lone seafood offering—white fish—tucked into tacos based on tiny traditional corn tortillas ($2/each fish, $1.45/each for other fillings).
Imprinted on my memory is my first taste of a fish taco, proffered from a little stand in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, circa spring break 1995. It’s hard for me to think of the dish as something other than battered fried fish, shredded green cabbage and a dressing not exactly mayonnaise yet not quite tartar sauce. El Camión does not share my fish taco archetype, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Their white fish is lightly fried but not breaded or battered, subsequently sprinkled with a confetti of red cabbage, onion, tomato, and cilantro. The topping is crema agria especial (not mayo, as the menu clearly notes), a slightly spicy Mexican sour cream. With a squeeze of lime the tacos took on tang, though overall their flavor was decidedly mild.
The highlight of the El Camión feast was struck as we dipped our spoons into a generous tray of steaming posole ($6), the classic Mexican soup featuring hominy and pork. The meat was stewed to easily shreddable consistency, the slightly sweet kernels of hominy plump and al dente. In its pristine form the posole was comforting and mild, but adding the provided garnishes made the dish a vibrant mélange.
Spicy red chile sauce, creamy avocado, piquant lime juice and nippy radish blended together with the heady soup base, tortilla chips contributing salt to complete the symphony. The coda? A swig of uber-sweet Jarritos mango soda ($1.45) straight from the glass bottle.
Tickets at the gate for Saturday’s Mobile Food Rodeo with El Camión and plenty more food trucks will run $10 single, $18 a couple. General admission hours are noon to 7 p.m.
Once admitted, guests can purchase delightful bites from the array of local mobile restaurants, including Where Ya At Matt, skillet, Lumpia World, Parfait and Molly Moon's. Portlandia picks like Happy Grillmore and Robb’s Really Good Food are slated to bring some inter-city excitement to the event, as well.