It’s bordering on the ridiculous that it’s taken me over 4 years to finally review El Cazador, because I eat here regularly. Well, technically that’s not true. I eat their food regularly, but I always call it in and pick it up to go. I never actually eat there. Which is why this review has been so slow in coming, because you just can’t review a taco bus and not eat on the taco bus. But, as fate would have it, the hubby and I found ourselves driving around on a rainy Sunday, looking for somewhere open to eat lunch when I saw their neon Open sign go past. One quick u-turn later, we were parked and pushing open the doors to the bus.
Because they are located in a bus, there are several somewhat steep, narrow steps that you have to navigate as you enter. (If that sounds difficult for your group, I would point you instead to their brick and mortar location on South Parkway, which has much easier access, but the same tasty food, and the bonus of an expanded menu). Once you walk up the steps, you make your way to the back of the bus. During their bustling lunch hour, this can get a little crowded as a short line will form and those who have just placed their orders are squeezing their way back down this same corridor. On either side, the bench seats have been removed and replaced with long metal lunch counters looking out the windows. Seating is provided by metal chairs with a padded seat and back, which proved surprisingly comfortable.
Once at the back of the bus, you place your order. Laminated pictures with item numbers are both a blessing and a curse for the indecisive–it all looks so good! Most of the dishes can be ordered with your choice of meats, a list of which hangs by the counter. There is your usual chicken and beef, and some more adventurous choices like tongue. My usual stand bys are the #1 (tacos, I choose steak) and the #6 (pollo asado plate) and this day was no exception–I opted for the #6 with flour tortillas. My husband selected a #21 (burrito plate, with chicken) and we added two bottles of Jarritos–strawberry for me and mandarine for him. We paid at the counter and I used the bottle opener mounted under the counter to open our soda bottles. A small bucket emblazoned with a palm tree hangs under the opener to catch lids which allows you to move quickly. I gathered our bottles and joined my husband at one of the long counters.
As we waited for our food, I took a good look around the bus. An air conditioning unit had been mounted in the emergency exit in the roof and it was humming steadily along. One window had been left open a crack and the fierce rainstorm had created a small puddle under the window. The counter was haphazardly studded with napkin dispensers, hand sanitizer, salt, and pepper. At the end of our counter was the trash can, and a small bin which proved to be for busing dishes.
I sipped my strawberry soda, curious how it would compare to the Japanese strawberry soda I had tried last spring. This was fizzy, with a strong seltzer taste that faded into the syrupy “strawberry” flavor of hard candy. It was still light compared to an American soda, but I found I preferred the Japanese version as it was airier with a better balance between seltzer and flavor. My husband described his mandarin soda as “a nice soft orange, not too orangey”.
When our meal came out, I was surprised to see that it came out on real plates! My pick up orders are always boxed and I had assumed that, like many places with a large contingent of to-go orders, they just boxed everything by default. Apparently not. My plate (shown at the top of this post) featured half a chicken, the skin coated in an orange oil based rub and crisp in spots. The bones are still in place, so the most expeditious way to eat was to pick the meat off with my fingers. Messy? Yes. Worth it? Yes. The meat was moist, with the dark meat being more so than the breast. The beans were of the homemade variety, thin, sprinkled with cheese and perfectly salted. The rice was a light orange color, fluffy but a touch dry. The tortillas are one of my favorite items and this visit was no exception, the small brown spots showed that the tortillas were warmed on the stovetop before being wrapped in foil. With a full flavor and just the right amount of chewiness, they are delicious all by themselves. My plate was accessorized with slices of carrots, onions, and jalapenos. On my first visit, I made the mistake of eating one. The carrots and onions are marinated with the jalapenos, so they take on the spicy flavor. If you enjoy a bit of spice, I’m sure they are delicious, but for someone who was expecting a carrot to be a carrot, it was a decision I regretted.
My husband’s burrito plate featured sour cream in addition to the rice, beans, spiced veggies, and slice of lime. He reported that it was “pretty good”, with a filling that was mostly meat and a flavorful sauce.
El Cazador is a reliable favorite for me. You can call ahead and your order will be ready for pick up when you get there, which makes it perfect for those days when you can’t quite get away for a leisurely lunch, but you do need to pick up something. On days when the weather is nice, there are three picnic tables outside the bus, under an awning. After you order, you can take a seat and the staff will hand your order out the window to you. If you haven’t given them a try yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.
Total for the meal: $20 (includes two plates and two bottles of Jarritos)