If there is one thing that the Seattle food scene is lacking, it’s a variety of good streetfood sources. Take Skillet out of the equation and we’re left with gut trucks and hot dog stands. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s not enough. Look at Portland – they have an abundance of choices, and I’ve enjoyed what I had on a recent visit. That’s why this article by The Stranger’s Jonah Spangenthal-Lee is pretty cool. It’s great that folks are being proactive about the streetfood scene in Seattle. What’s even cooler is that a new streetfood spot has already opened up and is flying completely under the radar. Say hello to Tako Truk.
Early in May, my friend Bryan sent me a message to talk about a new food tip. A friend wanting to talk about food? Of course I’ll call him back! I’ve known Bryan for about 20 years now and it’s great to have a friend that you can really talk about food with. That’s why I was very curious to see what was in store.
He mentioned that he was opening a new taco stand with his friend Cormac in the spirit of a streetfood stand. The name? Tako Truk. But they wanted to do something different; interesting, creative, and delicious food. Stuff that the Seattle food scene isn’t really doing. Bryan and Cormac had a mutual love of streetfood; it could be in Mexico, Vietnam, New York, wherev – they just loved the vibe and feel of being in a city and indulging in some good food. So armed with this, they were ready to do their spin on things. Oh yeah, his friend Cormac Mahoney? He’s the same dude that also happened to be the former chef at Sitka & Spruce. Streetfood, good chef pedigree, and tacos? I’m down.
I’ve had the chance to visit Tako Truk several times. They are open Thursday through Saturday from 6pm-ish till they close, basically post-midnight. Here is what’s interesting; they operate out of the kitchen of Eastlake’s 14 Carrot Cafe. Awfully nice of the 14 Carrot to help two entrepreneurial dudes. They have a little table out front, a makeshift little sign, and a sandwich board announcing the evening’s tacos. There’s a handful of choices, one of which is vegetarian friendly. The other’s include some sort of meat, so far it’s been octopus, chicken and pork. I’m a meat-aterian, so I went that route and the execution of each is where it’s unique.
Here are some cool things about what they’re dishing up at Tako Truk.
This was an inspired dish. Like the other taco choice’s Bryan and Cormac flex their creativity by trying out new flavors that are atypical for tacos. Like the pork. They take either pork shoulder or pork belly, braise it in coconut water, add some pickled julienne carrots for crunch and thai basil for a distinctive SE Asian flavor. I liked the balance of the juicy pork with the bright acidity of the veggies. Delicious.
I love octopus. When cooked well, it’s a textural dream. Tender, with a slight chew, a perfect vehicle to try out all sorts of different flavors. They do octopus well at Tako Truk. One weekend, they lightly grilled the ‘tako’ with carmelized onions. Another time, they made the octopus in a chorizo-ish sauce. Good spice, and great flavors. I loved the onions, the tang of the yoghurt, and how everything just melted in my mouth.
I’ve had two different types of chicken tacos at Tako Truk and each were tasty. This Thursday I had their curried chicken. This was nice. Lightly spiced, but housing a ton of heat. But the best taco I had from them was during their first few weekend. The chicken adobo with bitty fries was the clubhouse leader.
Chicken adobo is pretty much the signature dish of the Philippines. Every home chef does it and each has their own unique spin. Ultimately it comes down to the powerful combination of soy sauce and vinegar. This savory tang is what makes adobo adobo. So it was interesting to see what a couple of dudes, who are not Filipino, could come up with. Well, they had a winner. I think my mom makes the best adobo, but theirs works for tacos, the chicken was tasty, but the key to this taco was the bitty fries that they added to it. These were thinner-than-shoestring french fries that provided a textural crunch. I could eat a ton of these. The combination of texture and flavor is what Tako Truk does well and this taco is a shining example of their execution.
Tako Truk is cash only, and the grub is about five bucks an order. Which is the hallmark of any good streetfood spot; to be cheap. One of the things that I wished that Tako Truk had were drinks. Although, the Eastlake Zoo is next door and a convenience store is across the street, so the ability to imbibe is possible. Still, maybe they could sell Mexican Coke, Jarritos, or something else to wet your whistle. Small quibble, but beer goes perfectly with tacos, so I’m sure I’ll slide into the Zoo for their beer. Also, with three tables and a bunch of benches flanking their ordering table, there are plenty of places to sit and grub.
I know my opinion on Tako Truk is a bit jaded given that my friend is one of the founders, but I’ve made a point in this blog to be honest and talk about what I think is cool in the world of food. Tako Truk is cool. I’ve said before that Sitka & Spruce is my favorite restaurant in Seattle. But that was when Matt was a bit more involved, and my last visit was when Cormac was still the chef. Now that Cormac has spread his wings, I’ll be curious to see what other creative little tweaks he and Bryan have in store for Tako Truk. They’ve started with tacos and now starting to dabble with tamales. Will be exciting to see what else they have in mind for our palates. See you around the street benches.