Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pittsburgh Taco Truck

The most interesting experiences are when you start out thinking things are going to go one way and end up completely different.  Originally, I planned to stop by the Pittsburgh Taco Truck (parked outside Cafe Buddha on Perry Highway), say hi to the owner James, and grab some tacos to take home for DB~ and I.  She was going to get home at 7 pm and it was 5:30, so I thought I would chit chat for a few minutes.

There was one customer in front of me, so after his order was given out, James and I talked for a few minutes.  He asked if I wanted to come in and see the truck.  Of course!

James packed a lot into a small space.  There's a solar-powered cooler that holds his vegetables and some meats.  Of course, the main space is occupied by griddle cooktop and a couple of burners.  The other side has the counter space and a cool zone for the quarter pans (salsa, avocado cream, cheese, kimchi) and a gas-fed warm zone for the prepared ground meat and jerk chicken.

James bought the Taco Truck, which was his second as he bought and refurbished one in 2010, and rebuilt it for nearly a year.  He worked all throughout the food industry and did catering on the side, until he decided to go for it and open up in January of this year.

At about 5:50, it started to get busy as three cars pulled in succession.  I didn't want to just sit there and watch him work, so I just took off my jacket and washed my hands.  I watched him make the Americano taco (seasoned ground meat, cheese, homemade salsa), the jerk chicken taco (jerked chicken and avocado cream), and the special curried potato (green curried potatoes, chipotle cream), so I figured I could handle those ones.

Above is the jerk chicken taco....

One suggestion for James -- some chopped cilantro bounced on top of the tacos would complete the taste.

People didn't just order 1 taco and go.  They were ordering 2-4 tacos, one couple got 6, and I thought an extra pair of hands would help out.  When I got on line, James looked at me like Brick Tamland did when Veronica Corningstone did the news:

He just wasn't used to having someone help out.

James handled the cooking of the steak and flounder, plus the grilling of the tortillas.  I did the line prepped meats and toppings.  During the 1 hour that I worked, James probably sold 20 tacos.  The Cafe Buddha location has been very good to him, so he's not actively looking to move around much.  He's building a following there -- lots of repeat customers, in addition to plenty of new people.  He was working until 8 pm tonight and then going down to Bar Marco in the Strip at 9 pm until the food runs out.

Above is the flounder one with the smear of guacamole on the bottom.  The flounder was skillet sauteed in butter with some cherry tomatoes.

I give James a lot of credit for following his dream and jumping off the cliff while building the hang glider on the way down.  He has a lot of technique in the kitchen an finesses a ton of flavors out of a small space.  Stop by and check him out in the North Hills, follow him on Twitter and Facebook.  Who knows -- maybe you'll see me working the line sometime.

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