On Nov. 8, I voted for the Taco Truck Party. On Nov. 9, I walked to downtown Long Beach for dinner and buried my sadness in al pastor and carne asada. Because while some of the country elected an old leather boot to be our next president, at least my hometown is still one step closer to having a taco truck on every corner.
When I was trying to find a silver lining in all this month's shenanigans, the only thing I could think of is the spectacularly ironic fact that the truck that always parks on Locust behind the Superior market off 10th Street just doubled its empire. In the last month, a second El Roto C.A. taco truck – its logo: a cartoon of a hot dog eating a taco — started hanging out on Ocean Boulevard in front of The Loop, that multicolored monstrosity of public art (I would rather have some benches, seriously).
This new truck serves the same menu as the first: a lot of different meats. Eleven different options, to be exact. These include the basics like carne asada and al pastor (the latter you can watch being sliced off a trompo on the truck) along with long-simmered lengua, cabeza, buche, suadero, tripa and chunky, spicy chorizo. For the daring, it’s one of the few trucks I’ve seen that offers campechano, a kitchen-sink mix of multiple meats that you can get in a torta, on a taco, in a quesadilla, a mulita or a burrito. Or, just get a fajita-topped hot dog, whatever.
What’s most astonishing about los dos El Rotos is that Long Beach is in embarrassingly short supply of such things. While L.A. and Orange County flourish in mobile eateries–in some parts, there literally is a taco truck on every corner – the LBC hasn’t had any stick around long enough to even be featured in this column.
During the day, a few basic catering trucks park outside the courthouse and City Hall while a new Caribbean halal truck (yum!) trolls across the street from Cal State Long Beach. On Wednesdays, Curbside Bites hosts a pop-up food truck court in the parking lot on the corner of Ocean and Alamitos (except tonight, because Thanksgiving); and Belmont Heights Village Association also hosts monthly food truck pop-ups during the summer. But for dinner most nights of the week, the Rotos are the only option around for a roving kitchen slinging any cuisine. And now that a putrid orange peel is going to be president, I’m taking any opportunity I have to support them.
One night, about a week after the election, I suggested a friend and go have a drink at Cielo, the new-ish rooftop bar and restaurant stop the Sky Room. The cocktails are good, the tacos are on handmade tortillas, and view can’t be beat. It would be a great place for conversation, I thought, and to fall back in love with our city (and maybe humanity) from above.
We never made it to Cielo. As we walked down Ocean Boulevard past the performing arts center, I noticed the distinctive red and green flickering of an LED light board. “Tortas” it beckoned. “Tacos.” I thought of how horrible the next four years without taco trucks would be and instead kept pace past the Sky Room entrance. “Change of plans,” I said.
After ordering a few tacos and loading my plate up with salty roasted peppers and pickled onions and carrots out of the requisite bins, my friend bought a Mexican Coke and we sat on the edge of some planters and had that healing conversation anyway, right on the sidewalk. Cielo might have a view from the top, but tacos at the bottom taste way better. Long live the Taco Truck Party—Lord knows Long Beach needs it. #MakeAmericaAsadaAgain
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.