Photo courtesy of El Camión.
The Fare: Mexican fare, with fresh, grilled tilapia tacos.
The Stop: El Camión, which means "the truck" in Spanish, got its name because its owner, Scott McGinnis, grew up in Southern California with a lot of the "early, nameless food trucks" that were slinging tacos on streets. There'd be one nearby and McGinnis, familiar with the area's truckie scene, would turn to his buddies and ask, "Hey, wanna go to 'the truck'?"
Years later, McGinnis is the guy running "the truck." He's brought that neighborhood familiarity to North Seattle, South Seattle, and Ballard with three permanently parked sets of wheels that have snuck onto just about everyone's taco radar.
When he first rolled out El Camión's North Seattle truck four years ago, McGinnis's goal was straightforward: he wanted to serve great, authentic Mexican food in a clean environment.
He thought of a food stand that he frequented when he worked in Puerto Penasco, Mexico for three years.
"You'd get a tortilla and meat, and then an array of salsa, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and pico de gallo so that you weren't left with just one or two choices," McGinnis said. "I fell in love with this and wanted to make sure we did the same."
But first, he starts with the basics, using only fresh ingredients -- he operates a can-opener-less business, he said. That means he makes his wonderfully large collection of salsas -- habanero, green, or brava, to name a few -- from scratch.
El Camión's fish tacos are the perfect example of simplicity made even better with a few embellishments. Grilled tilapia, that's both flaky and moist, sits atop a bed of corn tortillas and is garnished with a delicate and unobtrusive splay of cilantro, cabbage, and fresh radish. A fresh crema agria, a sauce that's essentially like sour cream, ties these flavors together into a light, satisfying bundle.
Photo credit Bryden McGrath.
The rest of El Camión's menu is extensive and risks inducing heartache for the indecisive -- but not regret, because it's hard to order wrong with this menu. McGinnis offers 10 types of meat, including carne asada (steak), chorizo (sausage), lengua (tongue), tripas (intestines) and cabeza (beef cheeks).
Choose one of these meats to sit inside one of El Camión's monstrously large burritos or tamales, and one finds absolute bliss.
While there's talk of opening a brick-and-mortar place one day, for now, McGinnis just seems content to have turned his fleet into "the trucks" to try.