A Taste of the Thriving Food Truck Scene

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    The Santaco truck serves Mexican
    The Santaco truck serves Mexican

    Chefs and restauranteurs have been working overtime the last few years to fill the many gaps in Medellín’s food scene.

    In 2014, food truck operators entered the mix and I’ve had the benefit of watching their numbers increase first hand, as the park in Ciudad del Río has become the unofficial epicenter of the action.

    Starting midweek, trucks begin arriving as early as 3 p.m. to claim their preferred spot on the road, however they appear in the greatest numbers Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

    On the weekends, as many as 10 can be seen lined up from late afternoon until 10 p.m., ready to serve hungry residents and visitors to the park who come from around the valley for picnics, dates and dog walks.

    Chef Burger truck at Plaza Mayor
    Chef Burger truck at Plaza Mayor

    While Ciudad del Río on a weekend is my recommendation for getting a taste of these mobile kitchens, they can be found elsewhere, including San Fernando Plaza.

    I get the impression city regulations limit their ability to sell as freely as in U.S. cities like New York and Washington, DC.

    As of late 2014, there were at least 20 food trucks operating in Medellín (compared to 25 in Bogotá). Some are only used for special events, like Chef Burger’s silver food truck, which I often see parked outside their Laureles restaurant.

    In this article, I’ll be focusing on a handful of trucks I see and eat at regularly in Ciudad del Río. At the end, I’ll include links to additional food trucks.

    As in the U.S., the food trucks rely on social media, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to tell fans where they’ll be and when.

    Pork tacos and nachos
    Pork tacos and nachos

    Santaco (Mexican)

    Santaco opened for business in October 2014 and serves Mexican food, including tacos al pastor (pork), burritos al pastor, nachos, and Mexican tomato soup.

    They’re one of the few food trucks I’ve seen which also serves alcohol, specifically beer and tequila, the latter of which is stored in a transparent skull. In talking to some of the truck owners, applying for a license to sell alcohol is an additional burden many prefer to avoid.

    I’ve only eaten at Santaco once, and my expectations were high given the quantity of tacos I’ve eaten in Mexico.

    The tacos were nicely presented with fresh pork, onions, avocado and cilantro, however the tortillas were not to my liking. They were tough, not at all what I’m use to. I don’t know if I got a bad batch or that’s the way they always serve them.

    I ordered the nachos so I’d have more to write about here. When I saw the liquid cheese, I was about to snub my nose at them, however all the other toppings were fresh, which made up for the cheese. I hate to admit it, but overall they tasted good and I’d order them again.

    The two tacos, nachos and a drink ran me 17,000 pesos ($7).

    Pulled pork sandwich from El Camion Pit BBQ (blue truck)
    Pulled pork sandwich

    El Camion Pit BBQ

    El Camion Pit BBQ opened for business in September 2014 and sells what else but barbecue.

    I asked the owner of this pretty blue truck why he comes to Ciudad del Río and he responded that it was both the best and easiest place to do business.

    Here I had to order one of my favorites, the pulled pork sandwich (“marranito al pit”) for 13,000 pesos ($5.40). I received a healthy dose of pork with melted cheese on top and a side of cole slaw. I’ve had this sandwich a few times and it’s excellent.

    They also do a ribs (“costillas”) sandwich and offer five different types of sauces, including a radish mayo, cilantro sour and hot BBQ. I haven’t tried any of them as the pulled pork is fine on its own.

    Callao food truck
    Callao food truck

    Callao Food Truck (Peruvian)

    Callao Cocina Peruana is a restaurant on Las Palmas, however in May 2014 they also began operating a food truck, which is a wonderful way for them to extend their brand. And we all know Peruvian food is hot now.

    I was a little disappointed to find the truck’s menu didn’t feature two of my favorites Peruvian dishes, aji de gallina and causa (though both are offered in their restaurant, I was told).

    I’m not a big ceviche guy, so I ordered fried rice with chicken (“chaufa de pollo”). The cost was 16,000 pesos ($6.60) for a portion that filled a Chinese take-out style container.

    The rice with chicken was fine, I’d order it again. I know it’s not the most exciting option, nor the most photogenic, but it filled me up and the container makes it easy to eat in the park.

    Additional menu items include fried rice with beef, ceviche with white fish, a chicharron sandwich, a lomo saltado sandwich (beef) and regular lomo saltado. The menu notes you can ask about vegetarian options.

    In terms of exterior design, the Callao truck is one of my favorites.

    Chicken sandwich with a spicy red curry sauce
    Chicken sandwich with a spicy red curry sauce

    La Ricompany Gourmet (Healthy)

    La Ricompany aims to offer their clients meals which are healthy, fast and delicious. I’m hooked on their chicken sandwich with spicy red curry sauce.

    At 11,000 pesos ($4.50) it’s one of the cheapest meals I’ve had from a truck. It’s not as filling as the pulled pork sandwich from El Camion Pit BBQ, but I suppose that’s the price of eating healthy.

    I’ve also sat with a vegetarian friend who gave a thumbs up to one of their meatless wraps.

    A que te KB una arepa
    A que te KB una arepa on opening night

    A que te KB una aprea

    A que te KB una arepa is the newest food truck to appear on the scene.

    Karla Bolivar, a friend of mine, began operating her truck in January 2015. Her speciality is Venezuelan-style arepas.

    I like that she chose a niche she knows and is owning it. Months before her truck went into service, I told her I’d not try a Venezuelan arepa until I could try one from her.

    The truth is I didn’t even know they had arepas over there, let alone they were different from Colombian arepas. And I’d certainly never come across them in Medellín.

    It turns out Venezuelans prefer to have two arepas with a filling in the middle, like an arepa sandwich, whereas Colombians prefer a single arepa as a base with other ingredients added on top (like a pizza).

    I ordered the reina pepiada, which comes stuffed with chicken and avocado, for 12,000 pesos ($5). It was one of dozen varieties on offer.

    I’m not skilled at eating arepas by hand, whatever the country, so once mine was ready I did my best not to make a mess while I sat on the curb across from the truck.

    She had such a large turnout her opening night, she sold out of ingredients and had to close early.

    Scoops of salted peanut and chocolate ice cream
    Scoops of salted peanut and chocolate ice cream

    El Helado con Botas (Ice Cream)

    Artisanal ice cream has arrived in Medellín in the past few years and El Helado con Botas is taking their sweet creations from their shop in the Santafé mall to the streets.

    Ice cream trucks will always remind me of the Good Humor trucks which would cruise around my New York neighborhood every Summer as a kid (cue The Wonder Years).

    I don’t see El Helado con Botas as often as I’d like in Ciudad del Río, but when I do I head right for it. I recommend the salted peanut (“maní salado”) and chocolate.

    Two scoops will set you back 6,000 pesos ($2.50). A variety of toppings are available for 1,000 pesos. They serve milkshakes too.

    Full List of Medellín Food Trucks

    Overall, I’m thrilled to see a growing food truck scene in Medellín. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a grilled cheese truck (imported cheeses only, please)!

    As promised at the start, here’s a running list of Medellín’s food trucks:

    Did I miss a truck? Please let me know in the comments below and I’ll add it to the list.

    And I’m curious to hear, what’s your favorite food truck? 

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    LEAVE A REPLY

    9 COMMENTS

    1. Rightio – I’ve wanted to be a food truck guy for years, especially as I have been living in London where “Street Food Vans” are dominating the new food scene! I haven’t see any in Medellin yet, so I’m going to take my street mouth directly to the street food and get involved.

      The more important question, however, is: How do I get my hands on a truck and cut my own slice of the action??

      T

      • Hi Tom, I recommend stopping by the park in Ciudad del Rio on a Friday night or Saturday or Sunday afternoon or evening.

        As for your question, it’s a good one! I’m going to interview my friend Karla who has the Venezuelan arepa truck and I’ll ask there that. Hope to share that interview in the next week or two.

    2. Good Morning! A friend and I went last night (Friday) about 7pm and there were no trucks. I have been before (it was fabulous) and it was by the park behind the Modern Art Museum. Is this where they still are?

      Thanks

      • I spoke with Karla (a truck owner) and she said that the transit authority and cops are causing problems for them, and not allowing them to work.

        She said they’re going to try and go out today, but at the moment it sounds like there may be some disruptions to which until now had been a dependable presence.

    3. It is great to see the emergence of food trucks in the Colombian food scene.
      They are even popping up in Cartagena and of course in Bogota.

      • Ciudad del Rio, but less so now as the transit authority have been giving them a hard time and therefore fewer go there then during the time I was writing this article. Also, in the parking lot of San Fernando Plaza (visible from Avenida Poblado).