America’s Next Top Taco Truck: La Perla de Occidente

My brother called me a few days ago to make sure I had lined up a series of taco trucks for us to hit up during his fall break visit home. I had been preparing a list of trucks for a while but was overjoyed to tell him we were going to review the taco truck that was randomly shot up last week. Yeah, we’re weird, but I’d been meaning to review this truck anyway. Without further unnecessary back story, let’s introduce our latest contestant in our search for the perfect taco…

La Perla de Occidente!

La Perla de Occidente (The Pearl of the West) is the truck on Bianchi near Hammer Ln in the parking lot of the New Life Foursquare Fellowship church (which ironically isn’t on Foursquare). It might be the most stripped down, low-key taco truck I’ve ever been to. No fancy signs, no random paintings on the side of the truck, not even prices next to the items on the menu. It’s as bare bones as a taco truck gets.

El Paloma had one of the more robust taco truck menus I’ve seen this side of Pick n Pull (which has a ridiculous menu by the way), this place was essentially the exact opposite. That faded piece of plastic in the picture above is the complete menu for this place. I admire the simpleness of it, but it doesn’t really lend itself to newcomers like us trying to figure out how many tacos we can get for $5 (which is generally the maximum amount we try to spend doing these reviews). It turns out that $5 gets you four tacos at $1.25 each. $1.25 is generally the most I’ll pay for a single taco unless it’s the best taco in the world. Even at 25 cents over the standard taco price, expectations are raised. I know I said last time I try to keep expectations low going into these things, but when you charge a premium price you’d better deliver a premium taco.

Fortunately, these tacos were decent (with the exception of one). I went with a chicken taco and an adobada (which is marinated pork) taco. My brother attempted to order a brain taco but they were out of brain so he settled for beef and another adobada taco.

The theme of a stripped down, basic taco truck continued when we opened our boxes and found the two tacos and a single lime. That’s it. No salt, no radishes, just a single lime. They must really have faith in their flavoring. Miguel enjoyed his carne asada, mentioning it was slightly dry but it still pulled a 6 out of 10 on the Taco Fierceness Scale based partially on the strength of its sauce. The BBQ pork tacos on the other hand may be the worst tacos we’ve had since we started reviewing taco trucks. A lot of trucks rely on their sauce for flavoring but this was a bit much. Our tacos were swimming in their sauce, which is that they’re supposed to do I guess since “adobada” translates to “marinated”. But I believe the marinating process is supposed to end once the meat hits the taco. In this case, it didn’t. All of this would be fine if their adobada sauce wasn’t horrible. It overwhelmed everything about the taco. We couldn’t even judge how the meat was because it was like biting into a tortilla full of sauce. Even the onions and cilantro were non-existant on the adobada. We both gave the “BBQ Pork” tacos a 3.5 on the taco fierceness scale. There’s no way around it, it was just a bad taco. No bland like El Paloma’s, not distractingly dry like the Harding Ln El Grullense, just a bad taco. If you’re going to marinate your pork in sauce all day, make sure it’s a good sauce. This wasn’t a good sauce and it doomed what might have been some good taco meat.

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With all that negativity behind us, my chicken tacos were pretty good. Not great, but good. For some reason they neglected to put sauce on it. I’m not sure if something about me screams “This gringo can’t handle our salsa” or if I just have bad luck but receiving all these sauceless tacos lately is getting really frustrating. Regardless, the Pearl’s chicken tacos had better flavoring than the sauceless chicken tacos from El Paloma. The toppings were also more pronounced in the chicken than with the pork which helped their cause. On our super sophisticated judging scale, the chicken tacos are around a 6.5. They’re really on the edge of being a 7, but not enough to round up. Maybe if they had sauce they’d get the bump.

Overall it was a very average, basic taco truck visit. No fancy bells and whistles, just a truck that serves tacos and burritos as slightly higher than normal prices. We didn’t feel in any more danger being at the truck that was recently fired upon. We ended up giving it an overall score of 6.5. More menu options, lower prices, better tortillas, and better marinade could help its score, but it’s still a solid no-nonsense taco truck.

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~ by Slick Diaz on October 13, 2010.

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