If you have driven around Bethany at all after dark, you may have noticed similar-looking taco trucks on just about every corner. For a kid in college with little income, these may seem like a welcome alternative to the Taco Bell on Ann Arbor. Each of these trucks have reasonably priced food, a convenient location, and an authentic feel. What differentiates these trucks is their taste. To weigh in on this, I bought tacos from four of the taco trucks in the area, and I had two resident taco experts, Ben Book and Ismael (Izzy) Fernandez, try each of them.
Taqueria El Rincon
39th & Portland
Ben’s Rating: 7/10
Izzy’s Rating: 6/10
These were the first tacos that the reviewers tried, and they set a good benchmark. These tacos were very middle-of-the-road for both of the reviewers. The beef tacos were pretty bland and tasted mostly of vegetables. The pork tacos were greasy and slightly better, but both reviewers were surprised by how good the chicken tacos were. Izzy believes that a taco truck can be judged on how good their pork tacos are. Chicken and beef tacos will have little variation from truck to truck, but pork tacos are the deciding factor. Despite this sentiment, he said that he would not seek this place out for its pork tacos, but might go back for the chicken.
23rd & Portland
Ben’s Rating: 8/10
Izzy’s Rating: 7/10
Despite this restaurant’s ill-fitting name, this truck had the longest line. Even at 10pm, the locals were gathered around for what this truck had to offer. Out of the four trucks, these were Ben’s favorite. The ratio between vegetables and meat were to his liking, the meats were seasoned well, and it wasn’t too greasy to enjoy. Izzy previously stated that he almost never orders tacos that aren’t pork. He rated this truck the highest out of any truck based on how much he enjoyed their pork tacos. They had much more flavor than any of the other tacos in the whole group. He was not impressed by either of the other two types of meat, however. Both reviewers agreed that while these tacos were good, they would have been better if the cook had not forgotten to pack the sauces.
23rd & Macarthur
Ben’s Rating: 6/10
Izzy’s Rating: 5/10
Of the four places I visited, this location was the closest to the school and had the friendliest service. The cook was cheerful and had my order out within 5 minutes of ordering. For that reason, I was kind of hoping this would be the best tasting as well– imagine my disappointment when both Ben and Izzy agreed that this was their least favorite. They both agreed that the chicken was undercooked and had a rubbery texture, the beef was bland with little to no seasoning, and the pork was chewy and tasted like it had been cooked in the same pan as the chicken. “If my dad brought home these tacos, I would be disappointed,” said Izzy.
Taqueria Vecindad 2
23rd & Meridian
Ben’s Rating: 7/10
Izzy’s Rating: 5/10
Despite being named as if it were a sequel to the previous taco truck, these two establishments had seemingly no relation. Their menus were different, they had different cooks, and they were located about two miles apart. Their presentation left much to be desired, but that isn’t anyone’s main concern when buying street food. Izzy praised this taco joint for searing their flour tortillas before putting the meat on. This adds flavor and creates a pleasing smell. Again, he was not impressed with their overall taste. Ben’s favorite part of what this truck had to offer was the sauce. The sauces from the other trucks (except Paddy’s) were too watery for his liking. The thicker sauces from Vecindad 2 suited his tastes better.
Overall, the taco trucks were surprisingly similar. Other than a few standout dishes, the quality of the trucks depends solely on the cook’s ability to season the meats. Ben and Izzy agreed on most of their opinions. The reviewers claim that if you prefer chicken tacos, the best taco truck in town is Taqueria El Rincon, and if you prefer pork tacos, then you should try Paddy’s Tacos. If you like beef tacos, then Taco Bell sells them for about a dollar a piece, but you won’t get the friendly service and hometown feel of local these local food trucks.
(Feature photo by TJ Dragotta on Unsplash; article photos by Nathan Black)