At the risk of upsetting the people who love food trucks, I'm not much of a fan. While there are exceptions, food trucks are, for the most part, microwaves on wheels. They prepare unhealthy food in off-site kitchens and reheat it wherever they land.
Until now, I have stayed clear of "reviewing" them.
Tropical Tacos has a permanent spot next to the American Legion on State Road 84 just east of I-95. You don't need GPS, Twitter or Facebook to track it down. The truck even has a phone number for customers to place takeout orders. Takeout may be the best way to go, because the only seating at Tropical Tacos is a single picnic bench. Not that there's anything wrong with communal seating, because on a recent Friday evening, we exchanged childhood horror stories of homemade beef tongue with our tablemates. It didn't matter that we were talking about two different culinary traditions: Mexican and Eastern European.
The reason for our conversation was Tropical Taco's tender beef-tongue taco ($2.25), served on a warm corn tortilla garnished with onions and cilantro. (Cilantro is everywhere at Tropical Tacos.) The tongue was subtlety seasoned with what tasted like oregano.
The truck serves six kinds of tacos ($2.25), including juicy pork carnitas, chicken, steak and chorizo. Fish or shrimp tacos ($3.25) are a specialty, and have the authentic flavor of the sort I've had in Los Angeles. Topped with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo and house-made cream sauce, they're garnished with radish slices, lime wedges and pickled jalapeno.
Like all food trucks, this one requires you to stand on your toes and yell into an open window. This being State Road 84, the roar of traffic getting off I-95 is always in the background. Service runs from friendly to sullen. It's a cash-only operation.
Not everything is quite as good as the tacos at Tropical Tacos. A chicken quesadilla ($5.95) — melted Jack and cheddar in a grilled flour tortilla with guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream — was dripping in grease. So was a chicken Bandito burrito ($6.75), but it was saved by its incredible burrito sauce, along with pinto beans, Jack and cheddar cheeses.
Squeeze bottles of mild, medium, hot and outrageously extra-hot sauce sit on the picnic table. Ask if you want additional cream sauce for your fish taco.
The menu is rounded out by huarache frijoles ($5.75), a thick, fried tortilla topped with beef, chicken or pork and then a layer of beans, cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole. There are also flautas ($6.99), taco salads ($6.95) and nachos ($6.75).
The refried pinto beans ($1.25 as a side) are outstanding. So are chips and salsa ($2.75), warm tortilla chips with fresh tomato salsa loaded with cilantro. They serve Mexican soda and homemade drinks: tamarindo (made from tamarind), horchata (with rice and cinnamon) and Jamaica (brewed hibiscus flowers).
Tropical Tacos is about as authentic as Mexican gets in Broward County. It's also opened me up to looking for more real food on food trucks.
1620 W. State Road 84, Fort Lauderdale
Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
Reservations: Not accepted
Credit cards: Cash only