EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Getting to know the taco trucks of PA

Published 11:37 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Now in my second week in Port Arthur I am thankful, mostly, for one thing: The rain has stopped.

I sure noticed when it did. Sunday was positively gorgeous, though the wind was a bit overwhelming at times. Still, I enjoyed exploring RiverFront Park in Port Neches. The park is beautiful and the Acadian house was fascinating (and I wish it had been open). Several people have recommended that I stop by the Neches River Wheelhouse, and while it did look lovely, perched above the water, alas, I skipped it.

Sadly, it is too late for that.

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Port Arthur’s surfeit of taco trucks has won my heart.

It seems no matter what direction I drive, I can hit at least one truck within a one-mile radius, and if I never eat anywhere else, I’ll be fine. There’s something special about the truck food. It is at once liniment in a way that can only really be compared with home cooking, and it’s also street food and all that implies: overwhelming smells, heat, grease and flavor.

Taco trucks are experiencing something of a renaissance in the U.S. They popped up — briefly — in the 2016 presidential campaign as a dire warning sign of creeping, unregulated immigration, but generally truck food is very much an “in” thing.

Why, just four hours west, in Austin, you’ll be lucky if can find a place to park near certain taco trucks. Of course, those taco trucks serve all manner of vegan and gluten free inventions less the product of a specific geographic region than of a fad, and while I can appreciate an organic veggie sprout wrap as well as anyone, the food loses something of its piquancy when served up by and for hipsters. I have alerted my Austin friends that Port Arthur has the real thing, should my (mere) presence not be enough to justify a visit.

I jest, but barely. I am serious when I say it is lovely to be in a city where there is a local cuisine and where the taco tuck is less a trend than an old mainstay. And I am serious when I say that while Austin entrepreneurs have done a great job of snapping up Air Stream trailers and retrofitting them with grills and stoves, such simulacrums will never be authentic.

Of course, now that the sun is out and the wind has died down, I guess I will have to explore more than a few mile radius around my neighborhood. I look forward to a slow, meandering cruise and discovering more of the city and what it offers.

But seriously, who am I kidding? Nothing will top a good taco truck.