In the past few months, the number of mobile food operations and farmers market food vendors has exploded (see our Street Food Directory for evidence), and the foodie public and media have rushed to embrace them all. However, despite all of the fanfare, a growing chorus of ambivalent voices clings to the underbelly of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s burgeoning street food scene.
As constant as an atomic clock, the question of authenticity emerges again and again. That is, what can we make of a street food culture where the overwhelming majority of the vendors are employees of established restaurants, former chefs, and / or educated white folks? While the street food traditionalists are certainly running the risk of limiting or essentializing the very thing they love, they do have a point.
We have all of the fancy salads, lobster, and grass-fed beef we could want out on the streets; but at their price range, all they can be is a rare indulgence for an unsalaried, blue collar worker such as myself. Most of the time, all I want or need is a bona fide cheap taco truck.
The Border / Frontera Taco Truck is a beast of a vehicle, appearing like a gleamingly white cloud in the most desolate of parking lots. Sightings of the truck place it at various locations along University Ave. in St. Paul. When we found it recently, it was parked in front of a Bally Total Fitness at Dunlap St.
Its offerings are typical Mexican fast foods: tacos, burritos, tamales, and quesadillas. While the vegetarian options are sparse, one may talk the cooks into whipping up something special for the meatless crowd. The carnitas taco with a flour tortilla ($2.40) is modestly garnished with sour cream, some gringo shredded cheese, iceberg lettuce, and tomatoes. You can also get them “Mexican Style,” with two corn tortillas ($2.13). The meat was clearly the star of the show, and it was full of crunchy bits and excellent flavor. If you order a taco with corn tortillas, it comes with raw onion, cilantro, and lime. Both preparations come with a perkily piquant hot salsa. Border’s tamales ($2) come with either pork or chicken, and are also quite tasty.
Though there isn’t much for ambiance, there is a fold-out table in front of the truck if you want to take in the sights of an urban retail wasteland and converse with the truck’s lovely cashier and staff. Alternately, you could always eat in your car. You can also order take-out if you call ahead. Now that’s what I call street food.
BEST BET: Carnitas on basically anything, but especially on corn tortilla tacos.
Border Taco Truck
Street Food in St. Paul
Various locations; call to check.
St. Paul, MN 55104
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Sparse
ENTREE RANGE: $2-9