When a Nice Taco Truck Settles Down

Maybe there’s been one too many mad scrambles for the best parking location during the downtown lunch rush, or the long hours working in a cramped food truck kitchen at the mercy of Utah’s summer heat are not as thrilling as they once were. Whatever the reason, there comes a moment in the life of every food truck when it’s time to put it in park—permanently. Perhaps that’s why three popular Utah taco trucks have recently made the step from hell-on-wheels to brick-and-mortar. After earning their stripes, and a cadre of regulars, parked around the Valley, these restaurants have found new homes where their appeal—no-frills, affordable Mexican food—lives on.

Fácil Taqueria

Holladay’s Fácil Taqueria is owned by married couple Dallas Olson, a former chef de cuisine at Pago, and Spencer Herrera, who tended bar at East Liberty Tap House. When the couple found out they were expecting a child, they quit their jobs, bought a food truck and grew a following feeding beer snobs outside Fisher Brewing and TF Brewing.   

The menu, helpfully divided into “tacos” and “not tacos,” shows off the unique culinary chops that Olson honed at Pago. The Nashville hot chicken, flavored with a mix of punchy but not overwhelming spices and an agave glaze, would be a great piece of fried chicken even without the tortilla and fixings. Vegetarian tacos, one with mushrooms and an ancho orange glaze and another with cauliflower, avocado and carrot hot sauce, provide options for herbivores that never feel like an afterthought. Olson calls his brisket taco with chipotle buttermilk dressing a “labor of love”—he and his team go through the labor-intensive process of smoking two full briskets a day to keep the fan-favorite dish on the menu.

4429 S. 2950 East, Holladay
801-878-9969

Birria queso taco from Red Taco in Orem, Utah
Birria queso taco from Red Taco (Photo by Adam Finkle/Salt Lake magazine)

RED TACOS

There’s basically one thing on the menu at Red Tacos—birria. Birria—which originated in Jalisco, Mexico—is meat (in the U.S., usually beef) stewed in a flavorful broth of spices until it’s impossibly juicy and tender. The photo-ready dish became a trend on TikTok and Instagram, but for Red Tacos’ co-owners Nancy Garcia, Martin Buenrrostro and Jesus Mendoza, this recipe has been in the family for years. While the dish was usually reserved for quinceañeras and weddings, the family shared it with the masses when they opened the Red Tacos food truck, which they sill operate, in January 2020.

The queso tacos are probably what most people imagine when they think “birria.” Served on crunchy corn tortillas with griddled cheese and hot broth, these good-and-greasy tacos are simple crowd-pleasers. Three sauces—a mild tomatillo, hotter chile de árbol and very hot habanero—flavor street tacos, and birria shows up in pretty much every other imaginable variation, from quesadillas to Mexican ramen. The signature queso tacos are a good place to start, though—when I visited, Buenrrostro estimated that he ate the dish four times a week, including a couple for a late breakfast before the restaurant opened that day.  

1077 S. 750 East, Orem
801-362-2338

The Smoked Taco owners Jeff McFadden (left) and Gary Hanson in front of a taco truck mural at their restaurant
The Smoked Taco owners Jeff McFadden (left) and Gary Hanson (Photo by Adam Finkle/Salt Lake magazine)

THE SMOKED TACO

The smoker behind the register should be a big clue—this taqueria isn’t here to uphold any traditions. The Smoked Taco co-owners Jeff McFadden and Gary Hanson aren’t pretending to serve authentic cuisine. The two, who also own the local BBQ chain Wallaby’s, brought their love of smoked meats to a Gringo-ified menu of Tex-Mex (heavy emphasis on the Tex) creations. Their food is not for the faint of heart—one of their signature tacos is positively overflowing with pork, teriyaki sauce, coleslaw and peppers. Even the “healthy nachos” (what some people would call a salad) are loaded with ranch dressing, fried onions and smoked meat, and that’s not to mention the decadent churro fries for dessert. Come with an open heart, empty stomach and plenty of wet wipes.   

933 W. 500 North, Ste. 102, American Fork
801-821-5550


Josh Petersen
Josh Petersenhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Josh Petersen is the former Digital Editor of Salt Lake magazine, where he covered local art, food, culture and, most importantly, the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. He previously worked at Utah Style & Design and is a graduate of the University of Utah.

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