Ever since moving to Arlington, near the Court House Metro, I’ve heard a similar refrain: “You have to try El Chilango.” Having lived in Austin, I know my way around food trucks and tacos, so I was excited to try it out.
Unlike most DC-area food trucks, El Chilango isn’t mobile; from Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., the truck is parked out on 14th St N & N Queen St, just a few blocks from the metro station. Since the truck is in Virginia, the new D.C. regulations do not apply. As I walked up to the truck, I saw a mass of people crowding around the front of the truck, chatting away with the while stuffing their faces with platefuls of tacos. Right then, I knew I was in the right place.
Stepping up to the window, the smell of meats and spices hit me square in the face. The owner, Jesús Santacruz , greeted me and took my order, but not without offering me a free taco to eat as I waited. While the menu doesnt include a wide variety of Mexican fare, El Chilango serves six different types of tacos: Asada (Beef), Lengua (Tongue), Chorizo (Pork Sausage), Al Pastor (Pork), Pollo (Chicken), and Mixto (a combination of pork sausage and beef). Both times that I’ve been, Jesus has been out of tongue, so I settled on an Asada, a Chorizo, an Al Pastor, and a Mixto, with a Pollo thrown in for free. Each taco costs $2.50, a fair price considering the hefty markup at some trucks. And a full dinner for $10 sounded delightful.
Jesus is a well-known figure on this block, many passers-by waved hello to him as he greeted them by name. Preparing the food with the help of an assistant, Jesus pepped me with questions about which vegetables I liked and how much spice I could handle (the answer to both questions, a simple: All of it).
Just a few minutes later, the tacos were slipped off the grill and into tin foil to-go. Despite the group eating outside, there are no tables or chairs outside the truck, leaving guests the option to either stand and eat, eat off of a ledge conveniently hovering above the sidewalk, or take the food to-go. With a smile and a wave, I headed back home ready to devour my tacos.
As I plopped down on my couch ready to eat, I grabbed two hot sauces from my cabinet to join me, but ended up needing nothing more, as four small containers of salsa (roja and verde) sat at the bottom of my bag. The three types of meat were delicious, juicy and tender all with a significant amount of spice. And in the mark of a good Al Pastor, I could taste a subtle sweetness that hit the spot. But my favorite was the mix of beef and sausage, which complemented each other exceptionally. Since I asked for spice, my tacos came with a spicy mixture of grilled peppers and onions that mixed extremely well with the pickled cucumbers and radishes on top of every taco.
My only regret? That I didn’t get a sweet Jarrito soda to wash it all down with. But if my trip to El Chilango proved anything, it’s that you don’t have to go all the way into D.C. to eat at a delicious food truck.