America’s Next Top Taco Truck: El Paloma

Quick note: I flew solo on this review, but my brother is visiting next week and we intend on building up a queue of reviews while he’s in town so you don’t have to wait 3 weeks at a time for me to do these. E-mail me your suggestions for where we should eat (link is on the right).

I always try and come into these reviews with an open mind. Often times the taco trucks I visit come highly recommended. People take these things very personal, as if the taco truck they claim is somehow a representation of themselves. I’m guilty of this as I take great pride the quality of Beto’s Tacos. Aside from them though, I try and keep expectations low when doing these. I am eating food prepared in a space with less square footage than my bathroom after all. But when a truck slaps “Best Tacos in Town” on the back, it’s hard not to have certain expectations. Which cocky taco truck laid down the challenge?

El Paloma

El Paloma, which loosely translates to “The Dove/Pigeon” according to Google Translate, is on West Lane in North Stockton near Knickerbocker. They’re in the same parking lot as that old S-Mart, kind of by P-2000. They’re kind of hard to miss if you’re driving north on West Lane.

Some of you may be asking “Hey, isn’t there a Taco Truck in the back of that shopping center?” There was, it was this one. They used to be parked around the corner from the old Stockton Stooges (now Naturalz) before realizing being parked along West afforded them better visibility than Knickerbocker.

The first thing that stands out about El Paloma is its robust menu. In addition to the standards, they also offer a burger basket, nacho fries, and many other items only described in Spanish. The other thing that jumps out at you is the price. $1 always seems like the appropriate price for tacos to me, but they take it the next step by selling their burritos for 50 cents less than the average price of $4 for regular, $5 supreme/all meat. 4.50 for an all meat burrito is a steal in this town.

Unfortunatly, if their tacos are any indication, I wouldn’t be too excited to take advantage of that deal. Flying solo for this run, I ordered 4 tacos (2 chicken, 2 beef) with everything and mild sauce. Presentation-wise, they were average. They weren’t like the El Grullense tacos (first attempt) which looked questionable from the moment we opened the box, but they didn’t jump out at me either. Obviously I wasn’t looking for garnish or anything, this isn’t exactly Top Chef, but you can tell a great taco just by looking at it. My tacos did not look like the best tacos in town, they looked painfully average.

Sadly, their taste did not betray their mediocre look. I hate to play spoiler, but these are not the best tacos in town. In fact, their carne asada taco was downright bland. I know I asked for mild sauce because I’m a wussy gringo, but it’s almost as if they put neutral sauce on it. Store brand mild salsa has more of a kick than these did. I hate to be so mean about it, but the carne asada just lacked flavor in general. Aside from the cilantro and onions I was beginning to wonder if my meat had been seasoned at all. After squeezing on some lime and adding salt, my fears were confirmed. The lime and salt made it better, but only because it was really the only flavoring that taco had. It wasn’t bad by any means. I had no problem finishing both tacos, it just wasn’t the flavorful experience I’ve come to expect from area taco trucks. On the Taco Fierceness Scale, I’d give Paloma’s beef tacos a disappointing 4 out of 10.

The chicken tacos were much better. I could tell right away that the meat was more properly seasoned, but it was still on the sparse end as far as flavoring goes. The neutral sauce didn’t help much, but it was still a decent taco. Again, lime and salt really helped this one. Applying the TFS, these tacos rank a generous 6 out of 10 (5.7 or 5.8 would probably be more accurate, but we only do halves and whole numbers on the Taco Fierceness Scale).

Again, these were not bad tacos, they just weren’t good tacos either. They certainly weren’t the best tacos in Stockton. They were just kind of there. Overall, I’d have to give El Paloma a 6. The carne asada dragged the score down a bit, but the menu options, price, and beverage variety (which was also quite robust) helped its average.

If it’s on your way and you need a cheap burrito, El Paloma is a decent option, but it’s definitely not a truck I’ll be driving out of my way for anytime soon.

Update! So I went back to El Paloma yesterday because part of me suspected I just got a bad batch of tacos over the weekend and I dislike being so negative about things like these. I went with the pork tacos this time around and they actually had sauce on them! As I mentioned on Twitter, the meat was a little dry by the sauce definitely helped their cause. I’d give their pork tacos a 6.5 out of 10 and would note that these tacos are very dependant on the sauce for flavor as the meat isn’t seasoned very well. The sauce isn’t really anything to right home about though, but it’s an improvement over no sauce at all. Also, the 6.5 pork taco score does not change El Paloma’s overall score of 6.

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~ by Slick Diaz on October 5, 2010.

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