food trucks

I’ve been up in Martinez a lot lately, since I have several clients buying homes there at the moment. I was over there today around lunch time, scheduled to be back in the office for a 1:30 appointment and needed a quick bite for lunch.  Since I was heading up Pacheco Blvd, past the Shell Refinery, the obvious choice was the La Primavera Restaurant and Lunch Truck.

The truck is regularly (as in every day) parked in the lot of Bob’s Ace Truckbox Center, across the street from and just south of the refinery.  It’s got a couple of picnic tables alongside it, so you don’t have to eat in the front seat of your car if you’re not getting things to go.

The menu’s got the usual taco truck fare – tacos, burritos, tortas, quesadillas, etc – as well as the typical meats.  The prices are quite reasonable, with the tacos at $1.25 each and regular burritos at $3.75-$4.50, depending on the filling.  Super burritos are $5.50+ and there are a few other items not so typical for a taco truck, such as enchiladas and tostadas.

Since it was really hot and I had work to do, I got my regular al pastor burrito to go and headed back to the office.

As you can see, compared to my keyboard, the regular burrito is a good size for lunch – filling but not coma-inducing.  (And, by the way, did you recognize that keyboard as one which started life attached to an SGI O2 workstation?)


If it was in East Oakland, I probably wouldn’t be writing about this truck, but it’s in Martinez and it’s the only taco truck (or, at least the only taco truck I know of) in town.  It serves a perfectly acceptable burrito – not great, but tasty enough. (Perhaps a little light on the meat – but what do you really expect for $3.75?)

Anyway, all in all, La Primavera is a fine place to stop and grab something quick, cheap and decent to go or, if you’re in the mood, to kick back there in the parking lot, enjoy your meal and admire the view.

The address of Bob’s Ace Truckbox Center is:

3550 Pacheco Blvd
Martinez, CA

Richmond’s 23rd St runs north from the old downtown’s main drag, ending at San Pablo Avenue. It is a border street, separating the more “desirable” (but still quite modest) “North and East” neighborhood from the grittier “North and West.”

The street is lined with a dense profusion of small businesses, many of them restaurants. Towards the southern end, these are mainly Mexican, but as you move north, passing Richmond High, there is more of a mix, (including a Laotian spot which I’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t made it to yet). Overall, it’s one of those streets whose restaurants you could spend a good year blogging over without repeating yourself (especially if you are as lackadaisical a poster as I am).

Anyway, when I’m over that way, as I often am, I’ll stop at my favorite non-vehicular taco truck, at the corner of 23rd and Esmond.

El Tapatio, which at first glance might deceive you, is actually a traditional sit-down Mexican restaurant with a faux taco truck hanging off the side.  I’ve never actually eaten inside, preferring the excellent and super-cheap offerings of the “truck.”

Everything I’ve had here has been a least very good, but I’m most partial to the burrito al pastor. The carnitas and asada are good too, but, to be honest, I most recently had the cabeza and thought it was a little bland.

(The tacos are also an excellent option here. I have not, however, tried the tortas since typically these are tough to eat in the car without ending up with half of it down the front of your shirt and they don’t travel as well as a burrito if you’re doing take-out.)

The prices are awesome. At $3.00, the regular burrito (rice, beans and whatever filling you order) strains the stomach. The $4.00 super burrito is also a bargain, although I find that all that guacamole and stuff is a distraction from what the burrito is all about – ie, the meat.

Here’s the cabeza burrito that I picked up a few days ago. (That day I brought home dinner for myself, my wife, 2 of my kids and 2 of their friends and the whole meal didn’t even set me back $20.00!)

The truck is open 24 hours a day – so if you’re desperate for a burrito at, say, 3:00 AM, head on down there. Personally, though, I’m never that desperate. While 23rd is a bustling street during daylight and I’m pretty comfortable there, after dark – and especially in the middle of the night – well, I’d just have to be really hungry.

(And, correct me if I’m wrong – but isn’t that a bullet hole there in the side of the truck? Hopefully it was just a stray…)

El Tapatio
910 23rd St
Richmond, CA 94804
(510) 215-6999

So the whole hypester hipster food truck thing has finally made it across the bridge and through the tunnel to the ‘burbs with the arrival of the Bay Area Nom Nom Truck in Walnut Creek. Naturally, I had to try it so, on Saturday, when I had nothing else to look forward to but an afternoon in the office catching up on paperwork, I figured I’d ease the pain by treating myself to whatever the truck had to offer.

As promised by the its website, I found the Nom Nom Truck parked at the gas station on the southwest corner of Ygnacio Valley Blvd and Civic.

I confess to a moment of sticker shock when I saw the prices and reflected on the irony of the truck’s promise of bringing banh mi “to the masses” while charging more than any Vietnamese sandwich establishment in the world and I commented to the gentleman at the window, who assured me that I would “see value” in what I got.

With that assurance, I ordered the grilled pork sandwich at $6.75, paid, got my order within what seemed like about 2 minutes, headed back to the office and ate my lunch.

I really wanted to love this, but, the truth is, I was disappointed – it was just OK.

On the good side:

  •  service is fast and the folks in the truck are friendly.
  • the sandwiches are generous – probably a third again as large as the ones you get for a third the price at places like Cam Huong and Thanh Thuy in Oakland or Dakao II in Milpitas. (You do the math on that.)
  • they have big chunks of real meat in them.
  • they’re not bad.
  • they photograph well.

On the not-so-great side:

  • they’re not so great; kinda bland, really (and where were the peppers?)
  • they cost a fortune (maybe an exaggeration)

The thing is that in Walnut Creek I can get a much better (albeit, non-Vietnamese) sandwich for the same more-or-less 7 bucks at Morruci’s or Genova and not have to pay that for the privilege of standing in the rain in a gas station parking lot. (Ok, so it wasn’t actually raining – but it was cloudy)

In short, while the guy was right when he said I’d “see value”, it wasn’t $6.75’s-worth of value. (Maybe $5?) Overall, the Nom Nom truck isn’t bad, it’s just not that special.

I’ll be back when there’s a Groupon.