Special to The Sun
OKLA. CITY —
In the 20 years I’ve been writing travel columns for The Edmond Sun, I’ve featured my grandsons many times. I’ve used them as guinea pigs and models and, best of all, super traveling companions. They’ve graduated from kiddy attractions to more sophisticated interests. The one thing that has remained constant is if it involves eating out, they’re ready to party.
And so, a recent trip to explore the art of the Oklahoma State Capitol was accompanied by a food component. We sampled the fare at Big Truck Tacos in Oklahoma City.
The choice was determined by two factors: proximity and curiosity. Less than 5 minutes east of the Capitol, BTT is in an old building at 530 N.W. 23rd St. that must, at one time, have been a drive-in. And the whole truck thing intrigued me.
BTT on 23rd is the mother-ship. There are trucks that change location — devotees keep track of where they’ll be on their Facebook page. You can access the page from their website, www.bigtruck
tacos.com. You’ll also find their menu there.
This section of Northwest 23rd Street is a phoenix long overdue for resurrection. Fifty years ago, it was a neat area referred to as “Uptown.” Old-timers remember Katherine Lipe’s, a huge children’s store, and, across the street, Veasey’s Drug Store. Over the years, the nice stores moved out and tacky moved in.
There are bright spots. Cheever’s Flowers has morphed into an elegant eatery. A few blocks north of the street, the Paseo area has become a popular gathering place and arts district. To the west, the orange palm trees welcome visitors to Super Cao Nguyen and the Asian District. Still 23rd Street has a long way to go before it makes the list of attractive OKC destinations.
Big Truck Tacos is helping with the transition. Using an existing building, the owners of BTT have brought Mexican street food inside. No, it’s not elegant nor upscale but it just fits comfortably on the street. The food may not be considered gourmet fare, but behind its non-pretentious façade, is all the care and consideration that devotees of fine dining expect.
Big Truck Tacos is owned by restaurateur Chris Lower and chefs Cally Johnson and Kathryn Mathis. Lower has been responsible for some of Oklahoma City’s most popular restaurants and today owns Irma’s Burger Shack, Metro and Coolgreens. Johnson and Mathis have backgrounds that include everything from some of Oklahoma City’s finest eateries to catering to Austin’s elites.
The menu may reflect folk-food such as tacos, burritos and gorditos, but the ingredients reflect the chefs’ culinary flair and sense of gustatory adventure. Even something as humble as a beef taco becomes something special when filled with Urban Coffee Company rubbed and grilled flank steak with roasted onions and poblanos and topped with cilantro and onion. The Guardian features ground bison while the Flaming Lips, sampled by Chicago uber-chef Rick Bayless, tops hickory smoked tongue with sliced fresh avocado, pico de gallo and queso fresco.
You don’t have to be that adventuresome — there are plenty of choices, even the WoJo for vegetarians featuring mixed fresh veggies and white bean dip spread with queso fresco. I accompanied my Guardian with a cup of Mexican Chicken soup. The cup was chock-a-block with carrots, onion, tomatoes, celery and rice and huge chunks of chicken. The broth was mild, which was fine with me.
For those who want more heat in their food, squirt bottles of salsa line up like good little soldiers on the table. Choices include: Verde, made from cilantro, tomatillo, onion, garlic and fresh lime juice; Roja, charred tomato, jalapeño and white onion; OMG, roasted jalapeño and garlic; Asphalt, habanero and dried fruit; and OMFG (only made for grown-ups) with roasted red bell pepper, serrano and poblano peppers, cilantro and lime juice. They even have T-shirts to match the salsas.
Here’s a word of warning to the fastidious — eating here can get messy. The tortillas for the tacos, both corn and flour, are soft and there’s lots of filling. Tacos are served in a paper-lined plastic basket. I chose to eat mine with a fork and had to watch carefully to keep from eating soggy paper. Still, it was definitely worth the effort.
For those who are bored with a bland breakfast, Big Truck Tacos opens early with a number of choices of breakfast tacos, burritos, migas and huevos rancheros. To start your day with a roar, go for the Mother Trucker Plate: flank steak, two fried eggs, potatoes, refried beans, BTT spicy tomato sauce and choice of tortillas. That ought to keep your engine revving for hours.
Even with three of us ordering different items, there was no way to sample all the appealing offerings on the menu. So a return trip is definitely in order. Next time I’m having a Mexican Coke with my meal and topping it off with a margarita bar or Mexican coffee brownie.
Big Truck Tacos is handy to both the State Capitol and the Oklahoma History Museum and is open from 7:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7:30 until midnight Friday and Saturday.
ELAINE WARNER is an Edmond resident.