Life in suburban metro Phoenix is marked by convenience and amenities – things like well-maintained parks, big box shopping centers, and enough free parking to make a New Yorker's head explode.
And yet, some simple luxuries – a solid neighborhood taco truck, for one – remain elusive in some suburban Valley enclaves.
So it's a good thing for food trucks like D Taco Pit, a relatively new taco truck that recently popped up in a suburban, taco-deprived corner of Laveen.
You'll find the tall, lime-green taco truck parked inside the Walmart SuperCenter parking lot, in front of the TCF Bank near the intersection of 35th Avenue and Southern.
"There aren't many trucks like ours in this neighborhood," says Saul Aguilar, D Taco Pit's friendly host and order-taker.
Aguilar runs the truck with several cousins, aunts, uncles, and nephews. Before joining his family to launch D Taco Pit, Aguilar learned the taco game by working at Tacos Tijuana and Tacos Calafia, two popular west side taquerias. He parted ways amicably from Tacos Calafia a few months ago, he says, because he couldn't resist the idea of running a taco truck with his family.
"We've only been open since April," Aguilar says. "But we already have regulars that come, if not every day, then every other day."
The regulars start lining up around 5 p.m. On most nights, three cooks – Uriel Martinez, Percsilla Martinez and Lorena Martinez – work in tandem in the tiny hot kitchen, grilling and chopping carne asada, tending to the al pastor trompo (revolving spit), and pressing fresh corn tortillas to order.
D Taco Pit is very much a family affair. Aguilar's elementary school-aged nephews are often on hand in the evenings, taking orders and charming customers. The tight-knit family vibe at D Taco Pit is written right into the business's name — the "D" is a reference to the many family members whose names begin with the letter "D."
But how did a taco truck wind up in a suburban Walmart parking lot? Aguilar says that D Taco Pit used to operate out of the parking lot outside The Spurr Lounge, a much-loved Laveen dive bar.
A health inspector concluded that the dusty parking lot where the truck was parked wasn't safe. That lef, Aguilar and the rest of the crew scrambling for a new location.
As luck would have it, one of the truck's loyal customers is a manager at the TCF Bank branch location in Laveen. She offered to let the truck park in front of the bank after business hours.
Business has been brisk at the new location, Aguilar says. The family is looking for a more permanent spot, but Aguilar anticipates the truck will be in front of TCF Bank for about two more months.
The menu is simple for now: Just carne asada and al pastor are available in various, sometimes cheesy, configurations.
A bestseller is the al pastor mulita, a sandwiched taco oozing melted cheese and brimming with the pork's subtly sweet-spicy chile marinade. The bright, juicy pork is shaved straight off the trompo, the flakes of meat slightly sweet and crisp around the edges. Carne asada, meanwhile, involves flavorful, aggressively seasoned beef, chopped into bite-size hunks and drizzled with a lovely guacamole salsa to cut the salt. It's delightful.
Inside the truck, Norma Talamantes, the truck's resident tortillera on most nights, cranks out the corn tortillas, the thick corn discs puffing to life over the flat-top comal. The fresh tortillas are almost as wonderful as the truck's two homemade sauces — a thick, sweet-spicy tomatillo salsa, and a red chile de arbol salsa that lingers in the back of your throat with a bright, clean heat.
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Tacos aside, D Taco Pit also sells thick, meat-stuffed quesadillas, enormous nacho platters, and vampiros. It's a menu that's familiar and simple, but which never fails to thrill when it's done well. Of course, the virtues of D Taco Pit are only compounded by the fact that it's not every day that you find a real-deal taco truck parked in front of a suburban bank branch.
"This has become a family destination," Aguilar says. "Sometimes parents will call ahead orders so that their kids can come here and eat after a baseball game or something and their food will be waiting for them. It's kind of magical. I mean, where else can you do that?"
To learn more about D Taco Pit and keep up with the truck's current location, check out the D Taco Pit Facebook page.
D Taco Pit. 6020 South 35th Avenue (in front of the TCF Bank); 480-845-9908.
Tuesday through Thursday 5:30 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.