Are there really rules of etiquette for dining at Taco Trucks? Our answer is yes. Taco Trucks fall into overlapping worlds of street food, ethnic cuisine, regional tradition, class and culture. While Taco Trucks are newer to Columbus, they have been well established in Mexico City, Houston, LA and elsewhere for over a generation. Most of what we have to share should be considered best practices not just for Taco Trucks but any dining experience that involves exploring a new culture and cuisine.
This guide is based on our experiences. We offer a mix of tips, tactics and key phrases to help make the experience on both sides of the counter go well. We have learned from truck owners as well as some taco truck veterans from other cities where taco trucks are not a novel experience but a part of daily life.
Taco Trucks serve authentic, regional foods from Mexico and the rest of Latin America. The tastes will be different from the Mexican or Tex-Mex you have experienced in most local restaurants. This is street food intended to be filling, quick and cheap. You won’t find gluten free-burritos or Chilitos on the menu. Most trucks list their fare in Spanish and English. Due to their small size, the trucks may not be able to offer everything listed on the menu each day. Study the menu, ask a question or two and order accordingly.
Mexican style tacos often include diced onions and cilantro with radishes and/or cucumbers on the side and self serve salsas.
American style tacos include lettuce, sour cream and cheese – some trucks will give this to you by default – some will not. We prefer Mexican style.
When in doubt – ask.
Study our list of Taco Terms before you hit the taco trail and read up on the one, two or three trucks you plan to visit so you know what to expect.
At many trucks you will pay after you are served. It is not uncommon to continue ordering and pay when you leave – like at a restaurant. If you need to eat it and beat it then you want to place your order “para llevar” – to go.
While waiting, don’t park yourself at the counter. If it is busy make room for the next customer. Most of the salsas are set up to share in squirt bottles, so when you are finished pass them around or return them to the truck.
As a rule Taco Trucks don’t take checks or credit cards. Cash in small bills is best since these are often 1 – 2 person operations – if they get hit with a bunch of $20’s, they do not have someone to run to the bank for them.
Consider taking your own folding chair – if you plan to dine al fresco with friends. Most of the trucks have a few tables and chairs – but not enough for everyone. Many people eat in or on their cars.
We will keep adding to this list and we welcome your suggestions.