Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Consider the humble food truck: a to-go restaurant with built-in social distancing. Because of that business model, many of Santa Fe’s mobile eateries kept right on rolling during this spring’s COVID-19 lockdown. And while restaurants made a hard pivot to take-out, a few standout trucks – some of which were brand new when the pandemic hit – have been steadily turning out buzzworthy moveable feasts.
Ras Rody’s Jamaican Vegan: You may have spied the Jamaican flag flying above Agua Fria just south of Camino Alire. Follow it into the surprisingly spacious dirt lot that’s host to Ras Rody’s Jamaican Vegan, a glossy black-painted truck that dishes up plant-based goodness adjacent to the chef’s new residence. Southwest Jamaica native Ras Rody and his family recently landed in Santa Fe via Dunedin, Florida, where Rody’s truck had carved out a niche serving food at Tampa-area farmers’ markets.
Now, he’s adding some welcome Caribbean flavor to Santa Fe’s dining landscape. Ras Rody’s combo platters ($12 for a hefty mélange of vegetables, grains and proteins) vary depending on the day and the ingredients. No matter what’s on offer, you’re guaranteed to experience the power of expertly layered seasoning. One combo featured stewed black beans redolent with coconut milk alongside curried chickpeas, yellow peppers, tofu and tempeh. These were served over brown rice with a side of sautéed ribbons of cabbage, diced carrots and sweet plantains. Two spongy banana pancakes rested neatly over the densely packed box, and the plate was delicious down to the last grain of rice.
The rest of the menu is simple, made up of a rotating selection of fresh juices ($5), smoothies ($7) and soups ($6-$10), and service is fast and genuinely friendly. If Ras Rody and his excellent truck have come to Santa Fe to stay, we can count it as a healthy blessing.
Tacos Acapulco: Over at the small lot on St. Francis Drive near West San Mateo Road, Tacos Acapulco opened quietly in January with a menu of tacos (fish, shrimp, asada, barbacoa and pollo; $8 for four with a side salad), burritos and other treats (Mexican fruit salads with chamoy, agua de jamaica). Acapulco native and owner Julio Rodriguez, who has worked at Tia Sophia’s and the beloved former Zia Diner, partnered with his brother Leonardo Muñoz to buy the truck, repainting it with a splashy Pacific Ocean beachscape as bright as the flavors of Rodriguez’s tacos.
Acapulco’s reputation for seafood is borne out by both the fish and shrimp tacos. The white fish is marinated and gently griddled with tomatoes and sweet green peppers rather than fried; the shrimp are kicky and plump; the tortillas are sturdy enough to hold together a messy, tasty job. A barbacoa taco had smoky, succulent low-and-slow-cooked beef chunks, while the carne asada was lean and neatly diced. All tacos are topped with crunchy bits of radish, shaved green cabbage and cilantro, and come with a zippy salsa verde, as well as a fresh salad of iceberg leaves, sliced mango, cucumber and shredded carrots.
The first taste of Rodriguez’s extra-hot tangerine-colored salsa blooms with the nutty, nuanced notes of chile de árbol, then floods the tongue with eye-watering heat. In short, this dude knows exactly what he’s doing. Since most of Santa Fe’s taco trucks are concentrated near Cerrillos or Airport Roads, Tacos Acapulco is also adding a much-needed taco signal-boost to the St. Francis corridor.
Bruno’s “The Biz”: Bruno’s pizza truck is decorated with a black-and-white photograph of Giordano Bruno, the family patriarch who brought his Neapolitan pizza recipe to America in the 1920s. Now, his grandchildren Angelo and Angelica have evolved his recipes to span two trucks – Bruno’s Gourmet Food Truck, which serves espresso, pastries, gelato and sweet-tart lemon granita, complete with a wood-fired pizza bar – and Bruno’s Speakeasy, an oxygen, espresso and gelato bar. Since the pandemic hit, they have moved from Santa Fe Brewing Company to a small inlet off Paseo de Peralta, north of Cerrillos Road.
You know a food truck is legit if another truck is visiting during lunchtime – when I parked at Bruno’s to pick up my call-in order, Santa Fe Barbecue was already there waiting for theirs. I took home a 16-inch Margherita pizza ($14.50) with Santa Fe Brewing Company IPA-flavored dough, a tangy red sauce, basil, mozzarella, roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Every ingredient was impeccable, and the crust triumphed with that hard-to-achieve balance of crispy and chewy. Bruno’s easily rivals the best Neapolitan-style pizzas I’ve had in the state. That’s not all: a green chile, mozzarella and pepperoni Stromboli ($18.50) was an enormous gooey revelation that stayed firm on the outside and came with a lovely salad of arugula, pepperoncini and more sun-dried tomatoes. The icy lemonade granita is garnished with basil and served in a giant plastic reusable cup-and-straw; stop by any time with your empty cup for a $2 refill.
With eight pizza combos and build-your-own options, calzones, Stromboli, breadsticks, Italian sodas, desserts and rotating daily specials, Bruno’s contains multitudes, and I’ll be back to taste them.
Craft Donuts & Coffee: In January, Craig and Michelle McGregor parked this snazzy black truck in the lot across from Kaune’s Neighborhood Market on Old Santa Fe Trail. Santa Fe’s tiny donut scene would never be the same. The centerpiece of Craft Donuts is its Belshaw Adamatic Donut Robot machine, which allows employees to churn out beguilingly warm, fluffy on the inside, crispy-crunchy on the outside cake donuts to order, featuring a parade of glazes, drizzles and toppings, and a weekly rotating special donut.
Call in your order or get there early. One morning, I waited in a long line for more than 45 minutes to get a half-dozen donuts, musing that the craft-donut craze of the 2010s had finally made its way to Santa Fe. The hot little gems are well worth any wait. Standouts include the Turtle, glazed with chocolate, sprinkled with tiny pecans and topped with caramel; the Maple Bacon, featuring big slices of bacon; and the Homer, a classic strawberry with rainbow sprinkles. Coffee from Red Rock Roasters is consistently good, too. All I can say to the McGregors is – I can’t help it – keep on truckin’.