Trying out Surf ’N Tacos turf-ier fare during a time of restaurant chaos

by Nick Gonzales

For many Colorado foodies, and those in food service, the coronavirus restrictions felt uncomfortably close to home when Governor Jared Polis shut down all restaurants for dine-in service. A large percentage of the affected eateries have pivoted toward delivery and take-out options, while others have closed entirely, hoping to reopen when the epidemic has passed. There was, however, an entire category of restaurants that didn’t have to change business quite as much: food trucks.

The process of searching to see what was open and what they were doing motivated us to hit up Surf ’N Tacos, a food truck we’d never tried before.

We caught up with the food truck on a Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of Durango Kia, 1195 Carbon Junction, across Highway 55 from Walmart. As you can probably guess from the name, the taco truck has a flair for seafood. Its owners, Jorge & Emily Gutierrez, are a husband-and-wife team who came to Durango from San Diego. The truck’s grand opening was Aug. 7 of last year.

When we visited, the eatery was out of aquatic proteins, and that development stopped us from ordering fish tacos or ceviche. It wasn’t that much of a loss, though, because they still had spit-roasted pork for tacos al pastor. So, that’s exactly what we got, in a combo with rice and beans. And a Jarritos.

The tacos were true to their style, featuring marinated pork, diced pineapple, onion, cilantro, medium-heat salsa, and guac sauce served on corn tortillas. From Spanish for “shepherd style,” tacos al pastor were created as a Mexican take on lamb shawarma brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, in the early 2000s, tacos al pastor re-influenced Middle Eastern food in the form of shawarma mexici – chicken marinated al pastor-style and served wrapped in a flatbread. Globalism is fun (when it isn’t allowing COVID-19 to ravage the entire planet).

Surf ’N Tacos’ pork was very tastily seasoned (that achiote/annatto flavor – yes, please) and just a little bit spicy. The presence of the diced pineapple in the tacos, and probably the marinade, hit the spot perfectly, mentally transporting us hundreds of miles to somewhere tropical and warm. The guac sauce and lime juice we squeezed onto the tacos added to the effect. Like the majority of living humans, we’re starting to think we need a quarantine-free vacation somewhere that serves drinks garnished with little umbrellas.

Just two tacos was a surprisingly filling meal, so we could probably have gone without the rice and beans. There was nothing wrong with the sides, but they don’t necessarily add anything to the flavor experience.

We’ll almost certainly be back for more, especially because we’re still intrigued by the taco truck’s “surf”-ier menu items, the fish tacos. And our interactions with the couple who own Surf ’N Tacos were a pleasant island in a sea of social distancing.

Nick Gonzales

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