(Danny has been talking to me about the wonderful food trucks he eats at for some time, and one day mentioned he had discovered the most authentic tacos in Miami — a feat considering the scarcity of good Mexican food in Miami, a complaint that I and others I know share with Danny. Although he kept it a secret for a while, he wrote this wonderful post to share the truck’s wonders with all of us — I know where I’ll be eating this weekend!)
By Danny Brody
Oaxaca, in southeastern Mexico, is where both the Zapotec and the Mixtec, two historical civilizations over 3000 years old, originated. It is the land of chocolate and mezcal, of festivals that celebrate not just deities, like Centeotl, the goddess of corn, but even the humble radish, during Noches de los Rabanos (Night of the Radishes), where radishes are transformed into elaborate nativity scenes just before Christmas. It is a place known worldwide for its cuisine, and especially for their tasty and complex moles, rich sauces containing many ingredients, some very exotic. On the other hand, the taco, if prepared properly, is neither exotic nor complex. And that makes the difficulty of finding one done just right that much more frustrating. Perhaps the taco’s simplicity is it’s own downfall? Often slathered with obtrusive additions, the honesty of the core ingredients, the tortilla and the filling, is lost. There are many interpretations of what a taco is, or ought to be, but I have found the true taco of Miami.
For a very long time I had complained bitterly about the lack of good Mexican food in Miami; where were the damn tacos? What kind of city doesn’t provide its populace with some sort of taco fix? I finally asked a friend from Mexico City where the best authentic Mexican food could be found here. He took my notepad, and almost reverently, in hushed silence, wrote: ORALE. Now I knew that ‘orale’ was Mexican slang for something (I later found out — it’s slang for about a hundred things), but when he wrote down the address, and told me it was a truck, I knew we were on to something. The location threw me, and, in fact, the first time I drove there, I cursed him out, because there was no way there was a taco truck here. But then it appeared. The truck itself is a small pickup with a house-like wooden roof over the bed, pulling a matching trailer that looks like it was lovingly assembled in someone’s backyard, painted with the festive red, green and white stripes of the Mexican flag-a little roadside kitchen that’s about seven by four feet, containing just a grill and two guys from Oaxaca named Moises and Francisco. They are two smiling, generous, and hard-working guys, who just laugh and shrug when I tell them, in my limited Spanish, that I’ve been told they have not just the best, but the only real tacos in Miami.
They are from Oaxaca, a town called La Reforma, about ten hours from the city, and something of the country remains. They keep up a running commentary with their happy customers, not unlike grill guys all over the world, from Caracas to Canarsie. My companion, who speaks Spanish, detects many different accents among the customers — Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban-but no Mexican. And Gringo? No, just me. Orale is near The English Center, where recent immigrants go to learn English, and tacos al pastor are their reward for a long morning of verb conjugation.
Orale -The sign says ‘Tacos Suaves,’ and the proof is in the tortilla; corn, of course, or as it’s been called, ‘El Sagrado Maiz’. There are two fillings I’ve never heard of, suadero and cachete, but I’ll get to them later. The rest of the fillings range from the merely excellent, like moist pollo, or spicy chorizo; to the superlative lengua de res, a perfect example of the classic tongue; Al Pastor, with an unusual, almost golden raisiny sweetness; and Carne Asada de Res, marinated and grilled chunks of beef. The fillings are made the night before, so they have a robust blending of flavors. While Francisco heats the fillings on the grill, Moises grills the tortillas, fills them with the meats, and puts them on a plate which Francisco hands to the waiting customers with lightning efficiency.
Then there are the tacos transcendent. Barbacoa de borrego is lamb that is tender and has a wild game flavor. As the popular ‘al pastor’ is based on a Lebanese preparation, that may be an influence here as well. The Carnitas de Cerdo tastes moist and tender, and has the aroma of pork stewed long and slow. Do you like tripe? I like tripe. I like tripa de res – clean and hot, not mushy, but definitely tripe-y! Chicharron — not for the faint of heart — taste like Grandma’s, texture too. You be the judge.
And then there were two. If you’ve eaten at any haute cuisine or hip restaurant lately, you’ve seen some kind of cheek on the menu — veal, beef, pig, even fish cheeks are hot. Orale is ahead of the curve with Cachete de Res, a dense and flavorful meat that has spent a long time in the slow-cooker. The humble cheek used to be a peasant staple, now elevated in haute temples like Mario Batali’s Babbo, in New York, to star status. Orale brings the cheek back to its earthy origins. One can taste why this cut of meat is a standard in 4-star restaurants. I’ve had none better than Orale’s.The suadero. What is suadero? A long Spanish and English conversation ensued, at the end of which I gathered that it is a thin cut of meat that hangs from the breast bone of a cow. It’s very similar in texture and taste to a delicate version of a rib — there is an unmistakable rib-i-ness to it. In fact, it reminds me of the Dim Sum dish, ‘Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce’, which are actually little rib bits (here without the sauce, of course). The rib aroma and flavor made me want to really get my face into this one. It is their best-selling taco. The public has spoken.
When you get your tacos, you will definitely want to anoint them with one of the salsas in the squeeze bottles on the front of the truck. There is the Roja Suave (mild red), Verde Mediana Picante (medium green), which is actually pretty hot, and Extra Picante Chile Habanero (needs no translation). I stick with the mild, as it is always high noon when I’m eating here, and there’s nowhere to hide from the sun.
There are also the crunchy toppings, which are essential: the traditional pico de gallo (mild), salsa verde (fairly spicy), whole jalapeno peppers (do not try this at home — although to a Mexican, it’s kind of like a New Yorker putting a pickle spear on a hot dog, no big deal!), and the radish slices, which really freshen up everything. Squeeze on a little lime, and you’re set.
They also sell a chicken quesadilla, which comes with pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole (if they don’t run out). It’s very light and perfectly grilled. In fact, after eating these tacos, I realized that I wasn’t overly full; they’re light and easy, just the right size, and not at all greasy, which is what usually fills you up. After getting your tacos, and dressing them, you pay Enriqueta, the nice lady in the truck, where you can also get your Jarritos (Mexican Sodas). I like the Tamarindo — it’s not too sweet, and just a little bit tart.
It has been exciting having Orale as my own private Taco Truck for the past few months, but it’s unfair of me to keep it to myself. After all, someone was gracious enough to reveal it to me (thank you DJ Carlos), and it’s too good to keep secret anymore. After all, the Oaxacans have a festival coming up in July called Lunes de Cerro (Monday on the Hill), where, to symbolize their love of, and commitment to sharing, gifts are tossed to the crowd during the festival’s many dances. I happily share this gift with you.
Tacos-$2.50; Quesadilla-$3.50/4.00; Jarritos-$1.25
NB – If you can tear yourself away from the truck, there are usually two other vendors down the street. Two nice Nicaraguan ladies who sell homemade yucca con chicharron and corn husk wrapped Tamales, smooth and corn-y, and a sweet Peruvian couple who serve amazing Peruvian empanadas (they’re bigger and the dough is more dense) and big fat ‘Cuban’ Tamales, corn meal, rice, and chicken wrapped in a banana leaf. Take it to go.
28th St SW just east of 37th Ave. in Coral Gables
Saturdays-8:30 AM- 7 PM; Sundays-11:30 AM-7 PM
[tags] Orale, tacos, food trucks, Oaxaca, Mexican food [/tags]