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According to the speaker-phone conversation I was overhearing, the tow truck operators eating lunch at the picnic table next to me were supposed to be on the way to Camel Rock. A stranded woman and her car were waiting for them at the Valero gas station. But at the moment, we were all the way down on Cerrillos Road at Tacos y Burritos La Fe, where the two men were clearly focused on first things first: devouring the giant, aromatic burritos in front of them.
Santa Fe’s food trucks are becoming ever more irresistible these days, as an influx of COVID-era startups and old standbys alike seem to be doing steady business in all corners of town. Indoor dining may be open again, but most of us are still just as down to roll up and grab a quick meal from wheels – plus, the menu choices are only getting more interesting.
Last week, I checked out a mix of newbies and old favorites. Here are some standouts.
Tacos y Burritos La Fe (also known as Lonchera La Fe): It’s been said that Sergio Donis, a veteran of such institutions as The Pink Adobe and Plaza Café Southside, must put crack in the delicious food he cooks in his family-operated food truck. For three years, this unsung culinary hero has been tucked in the back of Sierra’s Plaza, where La Fe’s large menu of Mexican and New Mexican classics draws a steady and fiercely loyal crowd.
Last week, I picked up a headily spiced and tender filet of tilapia ($10) covered in perfectly steamed broccoli, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes and onions. It was served with veggie rice, Donis’ signature burnt-orange salsa, and a stack of warm truck-made corn tortillas, and I couldn’t think of a better deal in town.
For the taco-minded, La Fe’s barbacoa tacos ($8, with beans and rice) feature slow-cooked, impossibly tender shredded beef, redolent of chiles and cloves, sided with lime wedges, velvety, cheesy refritos and veggie-studded rice. La Fe’s menu has many standouts, but the garnachas ($8) have me hooked. It’s the only item on the menu from Donis’ native Guatemala, consisting of five large sope-like, crunchy masa disks topped with piquant, soft stewed beef, diced lettuce, fresh pico de gallo and a dusting of white queso oaxaqueño.
As they left last week, one of the tow truck dudes told me not to sleep on the green chile cheeseburger, so I guess I’ll be back at La Fe sooner rather than later.
Good As Feast: In early 2020, brothers Zac and Mateo Perez quietly opened their portable “tribally inspired Native cuisine” concept in the Meow Wolf parking lot going – and then COVID hit. These days, they’re still going strong, drawing from recipes they learned growing up at Picuris Pueblo and logging time at Santa Fe restaurants to make up a menu of crowd-pleasing comfort food. (“Good As Feast” is a play on “good AF” that also references the pueblo’s annual feast day, when the public is invited to share in the culinary expertise the Picuris people have to offer.)
The menu is a mix of standards (burgers, fries, sandwiches), a few wild cards (a hummus plate with veggies and pita, a BBQ chicken sammy topped with grilled pineapple), and rotating daily specials based on what’s fresh. Santa Fe is lucky to have a righteous new entrant in the town’s ongoing green chile cheeseburger wars: Good As Feast’s Big Badass Bison burger ($15). It’s a behemoth of a juicy, well-seasoned patty that’s perfectly balanced on a large brioche bun with a smear of hot green chile, lettuce, tomato and onion. Served with crispy golden fries, it’s a hell of a lot better than some of those other burgers we hear people raving about. We also dug the Frito Femous ($7), a plated Frito pie topped with red chile beans from a family recipe, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and onion.
This summer, be sure to show up for the daily specials: Zac says he can’t wait to bust out a signature beet salad with grapefruit and avocado.
Il Encanto Pasta & Grill: You can get a lot of things from a food truck, but green chile chicken fettucine Alfredo has got to be a first for Santa Fe. It’s one of many specialties at Il Encanto Pasta & Grill, the newest food truck at the park across from Kaune’s Neighborhood Market on Old Santa Fe Trail.
Owner-operators Juan Alvarez, Hilario Gomez and Anna Marysol hail from two stars of the fast-casual Italian scene: Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza and the soon-to-reopen Pranzo Italian Grill. You can taste that lineage in Il Encanto’s lineup of eight pastas ranging from pesto tagliatelle ($14.25) to linguini alla Bolognese ), three panini ($12.50 each) and three salads ($6.50-$10.50). There’s also a build-your-own pasta option ($10.99 and up) with a dizzying range of ingredient combinations.
In addition to the Alfredo, we loved the Al Funghi ($12.50) on soft, thin focaccia with roasted portabellas and red peppers, spinach, caramelized onion, goat cheese, melty mozzarella and a hint of balsamic.
Pupuseria y Lonchera La Providencia: “El Pulgarcito” is a term of endearment for El Salvador, meaning “little thumb” to signify its status as the smallest country in Central America. There’s a mural honoring El Pulgarcito in front of Pupuseria y Lonchera La Providencia, a royal-blue stronghold of pupusas and other Salvadoran delights that’s been parked on Rodeo Road for five years.
La Providencia provides a few shaded picnic tables with a great view of the mountains to pass the time while you wait the 10 minutes or so for your freshly made order. I can never get away without ordering the fried plantains ($6.75), which are served semi-covered in thick crema with a slice of Oaxacan cheese and sided with rich black refritos. The combo of sweet, creamy and salty is textural and transportive. Aside from pastelitos de pollo (crunchy pastry-covered chicken), fried yucca topped with cabbage, sausage and salsa, and tacos al pastor, pupusas ($2.50 each) are the main event here.
Last week, I went for a vegetarian combo of refried beans and cheese, spinach and cheese, and zucchini and cheese, topping each griddled masa disk with a heap of curtido (vinegary cabbage salad) and watery red salsa served in Ziploc bags. Chef-owner Maria Castillo gives as much love to her excellent pupusas as she does to her flock of customers, greeting each one with enthusiasm before sending them home with well-wishes and a Styrofoam bundle of home-cooked goodness. You really wouldn’t get that kind of personal touch from just any brick-and-mortar place.