It doesn’t take much to encourage me to skip my bowl of leftovers or a home made ham sandwich and have a ‘different’ lunch while I am at work… and so the arrival of a custom flyer (impressive marketing!!!) to advise that La Cantina Co Mexican Street Kitchen is visiting our office’s street was very welcome news.
Food trucks or the ‘pop up’ style of hospitality are growing in availability and gaining popularity at the same time – and why not, we all love to see a new eating option where it didn’t exist before. I hear that bricks and mortar retailers in the city are getting peeved of such options literally lobbing up nearby and stealing clientele, but it certainly all makes sense to me. Clever business I say.
From mid morning I am thinking about the delicious Mexican I imagine I will be enjoying at lunch and by 12.30pm a few of us head down. The line is big from both my colleagues and those from other buildings nearby. It’s a nice day so we don’t mind being ‘forced’ to enjoy some sun as we line up to order then wait for the goods to be cooked. I see that the options include soft tacos $6 each or (2 for $10) or quesadillas at $7 each. I decide to go one of each for ‘research’ and then the fillings include beef & chorizo, chicken, pork or vego. I see servings aren’t that big so definitely need two, Beef & Chicken for me.
We wait over 15 minutes in the sun for our orders… still nice as we take the opportunity to forget about work and get some Vitamin D. However, upon presentation of my order they have done it as 2 x tacos, I decide that “no I want to try both” (and I did repeat my order twice and she even repeated back) and ask them to correct it. We wait another 5-7 minutes and while genuinely apologetic I get 2 x quesadillas, still not the combo I ordered – it is all too hard, I am hungry, I just take it and run. Seriously though, there isn’t that much on the menu, they should be able to get it right. What I paid doesn’t even match any of the combinations in the end.
We head up to our office balcony deck to dig in and it is certainly yummy and piping hot to boot. Just the right level of spice heat mixed in with a great concoction across filling types. Luckily my generous colleagues let me try theirs so I still get a mixed experience. The tacos are better I think, with additions like sour cream, guacamole and salad it increases the freshness rather than my toasted basic filling only options that by the end feel a little stodgy, now seeming like the poor cousin although beautifully toasted on the outside. The beef mixture is great – black beans, a hit of chilli warmth and maybe a bit of chorizo (but not enough, I can’t really see it!) is delicious. The chicken one – it should have been called “corn… with a bit of chicken”. I feel like they tried to use up a mega can the size of a bucket in the mix. The meat and flavour is delicious, but I need more of it and without corn dominance. Some of my quesadillas quarters have maybe two small bits of chicken and others have good coverage throughout, so it is very inconsistent. The food is pretty ugly from a photography point of view but certainly tasty. The authentic bottled green hot sauce was good on the side and I noticed they had Jarritos (Mexican) soda too – nice touch.
Still, we easily smash these out and they are pretty yummy with each bite making you want more… which is a good sign and you get that lingering mouth burn from chilli that reminds you for a decent time after that you just ate something delicious. I was probably over mine though by the end without the same salad/freshness of the guys with the tacos. There is plenty of the finely diced filling that has made its way down our hands. Unfortunately no napkins at the truck to make it cleaner eating as they had ‘ran out’. You’d think they could be stocked up given the style of food.
For a $10ish lunch it is good, and it did offer a bit of spice (literally) to an otherwise average day in the office. I think they need to maybe look at their filling mixture, perhaps up the meat content, even if they charge a buck or two more. I also think they need to look at including more of the salads or salsas to freshen it up and add some moisture – tomato salsa, more guoc, lime, other greens, they need to have a play with the balances of their mix and also ensure for the tacos filling is spread throughout and not all at particular layers. From my experience they certainly need to get their staff more schooled in getting the order right, hire people good under pressure. Fundamentally, I think if they really want to excel they need to be quicker at getting the orders out, even cut the menu down and just crank out multiples to hand out as purchased as over 15 minutes is not fast food and takes up a hefty part of your lunch break… they’re busy enough over the peak time to avoid any wastage!
So certainly not a bad option and most definitely better than the alternatives at your fingertips so close to work. I’d go the taco options, at least two, and make sure they take your order right. Maybe you can request a visit to a well populated lunch location or check out where they are next via their social media feeds (links below).
Well done to them for capitalising on such a popular format and cuisine style and thanks for ‘bringing it to me’… a few little tweaks and they could easily take their offer from good to great. My fingers are crossed that they do.
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