East Bay Express 2010: Best Bike Tour

Wow! I can’t believe it! The February 2010 Tour de Taco won the East Bay Express’ Best of the Bay 2010 award for: Best Bike Tour. (That said, I’m not sure how many bike tours there are in the East Bay, but heck, I’ll take it!)

As the EBE writes:

Sometimes when you hop on a bike, you just want to ride — around the block, through the neighborhood, until you get tired and find yourself lost and in search of a Slurpee. At others, you need a goal, a destination, a mission. And what’s a more worthy mission than obtaining tacos? According to organizers of the Oaklandish Tour de Taco, not much. Billed as a “gastronomical quest on wheels through the Fruitvale district of Oakland,” the annual ride hosted by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and Cyrus Farivar of CaliforniaTacoTrucks.com leads participants along a bike-friendly course from one taco truck to the next. This year’s ride, held in February, stopped at four taco trucks along a 2.5-mile loop and then visited an ice cream parlor a couple blocks down the street for dessert. Those looking to tack another 3.5 miles onto the ride then convened at a bar in Old Oakland for refreshments. The date for next year’s ride has yet to be set, but organizers welcome taco truck veterans and “mobile food noobs” alike, as well as riders of all skill levels. The ride’s free, but don’t forget a helmet, $15 or so for food, and an empty stomach.

As it turns out, although I’m currently in Germany, I plan on being back in Oakland next February for about two weeks, and would love to organize another one. Or heck, all you 510ers, why aren’t you organizing your own, informal ride? If you do, send me pix, por favor!

[Cross-posted at CaliforniaTacoTrucks.com]

Tour de Taco: February 20, 2010 (Fruitvale BART)

So after my last Taco Truck Tour, the good peoples at Oaklandish and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition connected with me and wanted to put together a sort of “best-of” taco truck ride for those who didn’t make it the other times, along with some new ones. And they even made this sweet art for it, too!

I apologize in advance for not organizing one in December (holidays), nor January (work). But I hope I can make up for it, as in a way, this one will sort of be the grand finale of my taco truck tours. In late March 2010, my wife and I will be moving to Bonn, Germany — where there is sadly, a great dearth of taco trucks. I’ll do my best to update the blog remotely as best as I can.

So why would I forsake my beloved tierra de tacos? I’ve just taken a job at Deutsche Welle English (German public radio), where I’ll be the new host of Spectrum, a weekly science and technology show. (Maybe I’ll organize a döner kebab bike ride or something over there.) If any folks are interested in organizing future rides here in Oakland, let me know, and I’ll put you guys in touch.

Thanks again to all who’ve come out for the previous two rides and have made them as fun and delicious as possible!

Here’s the itinerary:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Meet: 11:00 am at Fruitvale BART (Oakland)

1. El Ojo De Agua – 12th St. & Fruitvale Ave.
2. Tamales Mi Lupita – 34th Ave. & Foothill Blvd.
3. El Gordo – International & 42nd Ave.
4. Tacos Guadalajara – 10th St. & Fruitvale Ave.

This should all be wrapped up around 4 pm, but as with the previous rides, feel free to arrive/depart as you please.

5. (Bonus) Cinco de Mayo Ice Cream – 3340 E 12th St & 33rd Ave.
6. (Bonus) The Trappist – 460 8th St (& Broadway)

Bring: Bike, helmet, camera, $10-15 for tacos, maybe $5-$10 for ice cream/beer.

RSVP: Facebook event page

If even half of the 115 people that have RSVPed as of now show up, this will be the largest taco truck ride to date and we’ll definitely need to go in shifts so we don’t totally overwhelm the taqueros. But we’ll figure that out later.

Questions? Leave ’em in the comments, or email me: cyrus [at] californiatacotrucks.com

Taco Truck Tour #2: Foothill Blvd. Edition (Nov. 22, 2009)

After the success of October’s taco truck tour, it’s time for another!

Taco Truck Tour Numéro Dos:

When: Sunday, November 22, 2009
Meet: 12:30 pm, Lake Merritt BART station (9th and Oak St., Oakland).
Start: ~ 12:45 pm
End: ~ 3:30 pm ish, Fruitvale BART station
Twitter: @catacotrucks / #tacotrucktour

Itinerary (follow along at Oakland Taco Truck Map 2007)

1) Tacos Alonzo at Foothill Blvd./27th Ave.
2) Tacos El Mazatlan at Foothill Blvd./Fruitvale Ave.
3) Tamales Mi Lupita at Foothill Blvd./34th Ave.
4) Tacos El Tio Juan at Foothill Blvd./41st Ave.
5) Nieves Cinco de Mayo (ice cream) at 3340 E 12th St.

When it’s all said and done, feel free to bike or BART home. Anyone is welcome to join up or leave at anytime, obviously.

Afterwards, I might even be up for a beer at The Trappist (8th/B’way, downtown Oakland).

Bring: bike, helmet, $10-$15 for tacos+ice cream, camera if you want to document the deliciousness

RSVP: Email me cyrus [at] californiatacotrucks [dot] com. Put “Fruitvale taco truck bike tour” in the subject line.

All are welcome!

California Council for the Humanities grant submitted!

Amigos y Amigas,

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a grant to produce a one-hour, bilingual radio documentary about the history of taco trucks in California. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve just submitted it to the California Council for the Humanities!

Here are the opening paragraphs of our grant application:

In California Spanglish, they’re known as loncheras. But in English, they’re known simply as taco trucks. Regardless of what you call them, most Californians simply call them delicious. Given their origins in Mexico, a dash of Americanizations and a kitchen on wheels, taco trucks are the perfect trans-cultural metaphor for California. They represent cheap, quality street food that has spread from Calexico to Yreka and beyond — California Taco Trucks will tell their fascinating story. California Taco Trucks is a sound-rich, narrative-led public radio documentary in both English and Spanish that will describe the rich history and newer incarnations of taco trucks.

With their humble beginnings as a blue-collar staple of journaleros statewide, taco trucks have since crossed socio-economic and cultural boundaries as more non-Latinos have discovered them. Further, as these trucks become more prevalent, cities like Turlock, Salinas, Stockton and even Los Angeles have battled with taqueros over how, when and where taco trucks can operate. Finally, many around the state have adapted the trucks to create new types of fusion cuisine served from a taco truck, such as Korean-Mexican (Kogi BBQ), Chinese-Mexican (Don Chow Tacos) and Japanese-Peruvian (Lomo Arigato).

Taco trucks represent a fascinating and unique lens through which to understand food culture, immigration, and demographics of late 20th century and early 21st century California. While taco trucks exist in other parts of the country, their presence originated in California. Raul Martinez is believed to have opened the first taco truck – converting an ice cream truck — outside of an East Los Angeles bar in 1974. He went from $70 in sales that first night to controlling a small empire of 10 King Taco restaurants and trucks around Southern California. By 1987, Martinez had earned $10 million in sales across his various properties. Nearly all taco truck owners don’t establish vast empires à la Martinez. Most are family-run businesses that work long hours and earn slim margins on a product that sells for around a single dollar.

Today, taco trucks exist in probably all of the 50 states, however, their largest concentration is in the Golden State. Los Angeles County alone has over 7,000 taco trucks, according to the newly founded Asociación de Loncheros – the rest of the state likely hosts thousands more. While taco trucks have existed for decades, the association itself was founded in 2009 after many loncheros found themselves afoul of new laws making it harder for them to operate in the City and County of Los Angeles. They have worked with attorneys in Los Angeles and Stockton, as well as UCLA law students to fight back and have struck down unconstitutional laws that restrict their trade.

Since the founding of Kogi BBQ, a Korean-Mexican taco truck in Los Angeles that famously uses Twitter to advertise and stay connected with its customers, dozens of nouveau food trucks have sprung up. They sell various treats including Indian cuisine, Mexican-Asian fusion, ice cream, shaved ice, burgers and various other combinations. However just as the classic trucks before them, this small community of newer trucks has to navigate an oft-confusing sea of municipal and county codes. These new trucks have received national media attention, and although they represent a small minority of the California taco truck community, they may just represent where it is headed both in California and on the national scale.

I’m supposed to be notified if we will receive the grant before December 2009.

If accepted, I will be working with Robert Breuer who will serve as photographer and associate producer.

We’re grateful to have received the support of the Asociación de Loncheros, who will act as the sponsoring organization. Our humanities advisors will be Prof. Abel Valenzuela (UCLA), Mark Vallianatos (Occidental), Prof. Roberto Alvarez (UCSD) and James Rojas (Latino Urban Forum). We will also be receiving culinary consultation from Bruce Aidells (Aidells Sausages) and Melanie Wong. We’ve also received letters of support from the Public Radio Exchange and NPR’s Latino USA.

Clark Boyd has also agreed to serve as script editor and Robin Wise will be our sound engineer.

Muchas gracias to Julie Caine for all her help. She successfully got her radio doc, “Squeezebox Stories” funded last year.

Keep your fingers crossed! Here’s to hoping we get it!

CBC Spark – Cyrus reports on twittering taco trucks

Amigos, this weekend marks the premiere of the third season of CBC’s (that’s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, folks) tech culture show, “Spark.”

They’ve got a new time slot (Starting September 13: Sunday afternoons on CBC Radio One at 1:05/1:35 NT (4:05 PT) and/or Tuesday afternoons on CBC Radio One at 3:05/3:35 NT) and have been expanded from a half-hour to a full hour.

Regardless of where you are, you can listen to the show — right now! — here, or via podcast.

In Episode #84, I close out the show with this little report on California’s new twittering taco trucks — my report starts at minute 44.

Much love goes out to Kogi BBQ and to Don Chow Tacos for making these interviews possible. (And if anyone knows how to find Joseph Santos in Palo Alto, tell him he’s on Canadian radio!)

Incidentally, my good friend Lisa Morehouse did a similar report on San Francisco’s twittering food trucks and carts too, on this week’s episode of The California Report.

Tacos + Radio = ¡Delicioso loco!

Also, join my CaliforniaTacoTrucks.com Facebook fan page!

Tacos Santana caters Jesse Thorn’s wedding

Man, this guy is my hero.

Why? Not only because he has a great podcast and has interviewed everyone from Ira Glass to Ted Leo. Not only because his podcast was picked up by WNYC and then PRI. Not only because he’s America’s Radio Sweetheart. Not only because his wedding was covered by The Grey Lady herself. But mostly, because his wedding was catered by, yes, a taco truck.

The Times neglected to mention which truck provided the food. Because, as we all know, not all trucks are created equal. A closer look at the above photo reveals it to be Tacos Santana, which appears to be part of the El Tonayense empire. Good pick, Jesse!

Introducing CaliforniaTacoTrucks.com!

With origins in Mexico, a dash of Americanizations and a kitchen on wheels, taco trucks are the perfect metaphor for California. They represent cheap and quality street food that has spread from Calexico to Yreka and beyond. Anyone who loves an honest horchata, a good burrito and solid torta knows where to find these roving brigades of deliciousness.

California Taco Trucks was started as a way for five Californians to explore this intersection and confluence of geography, culture, photography and, of course, tacos.

Join me and four of my fellow taco lovers for a new blog about all things taco truck.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune: Owners of lunch trucks blast parking time limit

Owners of lunch trucks blast parking time limit:

A county ordinance targeting food vending trucks took some heat Tuesday when a couple dozen truck owners and their lawyer came to the Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose it.

The supervisors had given the ordinance tentative approval last week. But after the vendors’ protested Tuesday, the supervisors put off a final vote, which now could take place next week.

One vender vowed to sue the county unless changes are made to the proposed ordinance.

Specifically, the vendors oppose a 60-minute time limit on parking at one location, even though current county law prohibits such trucks from staying for more than 30 minutes in one spot. The vendors said 60 minutes is still not long enough.

Even worse, they said, was a provision that makes it a misdemeanor to park beyond the time limit. Now, county law calls only for citations for lagging lunch trucks.

The group’s attorney charged that the ordinance, as written, would not hold up in court.