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New Haven Taco District

New Haven CT

long wharf park, new haven CT (near I-91/I-95 junction, across the street from the veteran's memorial)
wikipedia
hours unknown - they're there whenever i drive by

New Haven Taco District

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Rating: 87
Price: $$

Update 2/2011: in an effort to determine (for myself, mostly, but I guess you can listen in) which the best of the trucks is, I'll be updating the New Haven Taco District's page as I return.

The first 3 times I drove through Connecticut, over the span of several months, it was pouring rain so hard that traffic on the freeway was forced to slow down to 30 MPH. The next 3 or 4 times, it was occasionally raining and always unpleasant. 'Is Connecticut the worst state in the union?', I wondered, 'Could it possibly have any redeeming qualities?'

Fortunately, after recalling that on several previous occasions I had frantically and recklessly swiveled my head as I was driving past a bunch of taco trucks near the I-91/I-95 interchange, I had the foresight to pull off during a trip with my friend Sarah. We quickly located the goods, a row of approximately 6 trucks (depending on the day) selling tacos, hot dogs, roses, and whatever else your heart could desire. They've been bounced around a bit by construction, but they're generally either at or across the street from Long Wharf Park (a park renowned for its aggressive seagull population).

Since that initial trip, I've been back several times, always in unusual weather conditions: once so windy that I could barely open the door to our truck, once on an extreme clear and cold winter day, and another time in the rain. No matter the weather, time, or day of the week, the trucks are always there (though during the windstorm they put protective pieces of cardboard over the windows) and during lunch hour its always packed.

There's good reason for the crowd. Unfortunately, I'm not yet astute enough to differentiate between the trucks (due to their proximity to each other and extremely similar menus, I speculate they are either all members of the same family business, or bitterly angry splinters off the same master organization). However, at each of them you can get a taco for a buck fifty, and at Santa Apolonia you can get it for a dollar. This price discrepancy suggests to me that Santa Apolonia is the 'new kid on the block' trying to break into the market, and doesn't mind ruffling a few feathers along the way.

At the black truck, the meat is unspectacular but well-cooked and well-seasoned; the tortillas are nice and moist; the lime is flavorful and is especially welcome on their mild shredded chicken. Salsa-wise there's a couple options, red and green: each is spicy, but not overpowering, and the green has a great tangy flavor.

At the unnamed yellow truck, the service is extremely friendly and prompt. I ordered one asada and one pollo taco, and both were good. The asada retained a bit of gristle and was a little salty for my tastes, and the chicken was a bit mild, but it seems like they're converging on the ultimate deliciousness. The man in the truck applies the salsa for you: your choices are red (hot) and green (mild). I went with the red and 'spicy' may be an overstatement. It had a bit of flavor but, on the whole, didn't stand out from the crowd.

These trucks serve good tacos, no matter what part of the world you're in. For New England, however, it's revolutionary - the only good Mexican food I've found outside of Jamaica Plain. Cape Cod legend has it that the New England populace swore off spice as part of a loosely Puritanical cleansing in the early 1800s; even today, you can't get anything that has much flavor. If you're driving between New York and almost anywhere in New England, the New Haven Taco District should be stop #1 on your priority list (and Tacos el Charro in Jamaica Plain should be your final destination).

Reviewed by tacosmog.com on