West Coast Tacos
Cardinal Fitness Parking Lot (831 Broad Ripple Avenue)
Food: 3.5 stars, Atmosphere: 5 stars (unrivaled), Service: 5 stars
"My salsa is the bomb."
So said Arnold Park, chef of Indy's new West Coast Tacos food truck that is currently parked outside of Cardinal Fitness in Broad Ripple. It was a bold statement, spoken to me one Friday night before visible dusk, right after the mobile food truck opened, about 8 p.m.
I'm a Mexican home cook, and I believe that my salsa is the bomb. But he was right. His was too. Hotter than most of what you'll find in Indy - I wouldn't be surprised if there were habanero peppers in there - and with lots of garlic and crushed tomatoes. That spicy sea covers the steak tacos that the truck is currently, exclusively selling: grilled steak chunks, herbs and onion slivers wrapped inside two small tortillas, three-for-$5 at a time.
Mad at the limited menu? Hey, this is a taco truck - Indy's first, in a lot of ways. It was created somewhat in the vein of the original blockbuster food truck, Los Angeles' Kogi BBQ, which last year started a craze for food truck culture around the country. And like Kogi, they're melding Mexican and Korean flavors, one taco at a time. Owner Jon Ban, known to Indianapolis locals as DJ Sonic, explains the food style as featuring such American Mexican concoctions as tacos, burritos, quesadillas - plus Korean spices, marinades, and flavors.
Ban is from Indy, but spent a few years in Los Angeles pursuing his record career as a rap artist. During his time there, he said, he discovered the phenomenon of food trucks, got hooked, and got an idea.
"I thought, 'wow, these are non-existent in Indianapolis,'" he said, echoing the sentiments of anyone who has been to a place with authentic Mexican food or American variations thereof. The tacos were different from what he was used to in the Midwest, and despite their fiery flavor profile, he banked on locals loving them.
So far, he seems to be right: The guys parked outside Cardinal Fitness around 7 p.m. From the second they opened last Friday night, they had a healthy sprinkling of diners around the LA vista-painted truck. As the night wore on, the lines got more solid.
The truck, by the way, came from Ohio, but had yellow and red stripes. "It looked like a clown truck at a carnival," Ban said, "but it had a full kitchen inside of it." They bought it and had TKO graphics in Plainfield pimp it out, complete with a skyline view of LA palm trees.
In the future, chef Park said, the truck will crank out chicken and even shrimp and fish tacos, and maybe even add another "location" in downtown Indy.
In the meantime, I hope the local health officials don't hassle them.
Turns out municipal codes can be a real bitch when it comes to food carts and trucks. As you read this, Chicago's mobile-minded chef community is fighting a too-restrictive code that doesn't allow vendors to cook anything en-truck. I'm not sure how prohibitive our codes are, partially because there hasn't been, to my knowledge, a huge food truck movement to shine a spotlight on the subject. I suppose we'll see soon. The truck has a Marion Country Health Department sticker. I wish these guys all the best. And oh, yes, I'll be back.