And while we've already shared some of our favorite brick-and-mortar spots for a cheap taco fix, we also know there are great eats to be had at the many food trucks that frequent Central Phoenix at night.
These taco trucks range in scale from small carts to fully equipped kitchens-on-wheels with attached awnings and seating. Some are better than others, and, in search of the very best, we set out to try as many as we could find to come up with a list of our favorites.
So, next time you're in the mood for a hot-off-the-grill al pastor taco, hit the ATM (we're in cash-only territory here, folks), and head to one of these excellent mobile eateries.
2804 West Van Buren Street
Tuesday through Thursday: 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Friday and Saturday: 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Located in a parking lot fairly deep in the southwestern half of Central Phoenix, Tacos Chava is, in a physical sense, one of the better established taco trucks in the area. Complete with tables, chairs, a TV, and even a sound system, Tacos Chava almost feels like a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
The menu doesn't differ very much from most other taco trucks, but here you'll find less of the heavy meat-and-cheese combinations common to Sonoran-style trucks. Diners will have the choice of either carne asada, pork al pastor, lengua (beef tongue), cabeza (beef head and cheek), or grilled chicken — all available in forms ranging from tacos to vampiros.
On a recent visit, we sat down at the only free table in the place and ordered tacos asada and tacos pastor. Both were excellent. The carne asada was tender and had the right amount of char and smoky flavor, while the pastor was sweet and spicy. Four tacos and two bottles of water came to about $6.50.
What set Tacos Chava apart were the extras that came with the tacos: a fully loaded plate of grilled onions and vegetables. Not only were they delicious, but they also provided even more food at no extra cost. The tacos may not have been the best we've ever had, but anyone in the area would be remiss not to give this truck a try.
El Sabroso Hot Dog Stand
2746 West Thomas Road
No posted hours, though it seems to be open from about 6 p.m. until 2 or 3 a.m.
In the case of El Sabroso Hot Dog Stand, the eatery's name is not totally accurate. El Sabroso, like Tacos Chava, isn't so much a "stand" as it is a large operation, with a truck attached to an awning, under which you'll find a cluster of tables and chairs, a TV, and an AC unit.
The hot dog stand also offers far more than hot dogs. We sat down and ordered, necessarily, a Sonoran-style hot dog with all the works — tomatoes, beans, salsa, cheese, bacon — as well as tacos pastor and asada. To our surprise, these tacos were the best we had of any truck we visited. The pastor was fruitier than any other we tried, and it offered a rich spiciness. The asada had a robust beefy flavor, and the smokiness really hit the spot.
The hot dog was also excellent. It had the perfect balance of char, and the onions and salsa cut through the richness of the rest of the ingredients. We were disappointed to see it served in a regular hot dog bun rather than a bolillo bun, but it still tasted great.
The pricing here was pretty standard. Two tacos and a hot dog came to around $6. All said and done, El Sabroso was our favorite truck we visited.
Taqueria La Hacienda
254 East Buckeye Road
Monday: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 6 to 10 p.m.
Tuesday through Thursday: 9 to 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m. to midnight
Our final choice is the most like an actual taco truck. Taqueria La Hacienda is one of the few trucks we tried where you actually order at the window. It's also parked next to a covered parking lot with tables set up underneath, rather than attached to an awning or tent.
This spot also has the biggest menu of our three favorite trucks. Not only does it offer a standard array of tacos and burritos, but there were also tostadas and breakfast (labeled as desayuno) burritos.
Not ones to change something that isn't broken, we ordered our standard tacos pastor and asada, as well as a tostada asada. Both the pastor and asada had the most char of any place we visited, though it wasn't overpowering in either case. It added some nice textural variety and a biting smokiness.
The tostada was massive, full of steak, salsa, veggies, cabbage, and even a half avocado, all on top of a crispy corn tortilla. A lack of utensils made eating it a little difficult, but it took everything we loved about the carne asada and added even more flavor to the mix.
In the end, the added menu variety at Taqueria La Hacienda was good to see, and the price wasn't any higher than at other trucks, making it a worthwhile stop on your next taco expedition.
Originally published Tuesday, April 12. Updated Tuesday, September 6.