By Matt Wake | AL.com
MADISON, Alabama — Recent examples of spectacular symbiosis include: Kate Upton and bikinis; Justin Timberlake and “Saturday Night Live”: Colin Kaepernick and bicep kissing; and Lena Dunham and 20-something slacker depictions.
A lone, Jimi Hendrix tee-wearing fellow operated the On-On truck (actually a 14-foot trailer), which parks just outside the Blue Pants door, when we visited on a brisk Thursday evening.
We started with chorizo nachos ($6.50, also available: pork, chicken and, for $1 extra, shrimp also) and a chicken quesadilla ($6.50, same options). The On-On cook warned us the chorizo might make the nachos greasy. This was not the case. Unless “greasy” is now synonymous with “excellent.” In addition to the slightly spicy/smoky pork sausage, the white corn chips were covered with Stout Black Beans and Mexican Drunken Pintos. And topped with Roasted Jalapeno Garlic Queso, which was thick without being rubbery.
The chicken quesadilla was yummy, and if you’re sharing your On-On Tacos meal with a date, it’s a much less messy appetizer option. Queso, tender chicken, black and pinto beans, grilled and sliced tortilla. The salsa served on the side was fantastic – fresh tomatoes chopped super-fine and some significant cilantro lift.
Most food trucks I’ve visited feature two-person crews. The solo On-On guy managed to get our entrees out to us in about 18 minutes, warm, well-cooked and effectively plated (on black disposable dishware).
I ordered the Crazy Carolina Burrito ($8). Smoked pork, crispy onions, red pepper slaw, pinto, Carolina sauce in a grilled tortilla. This basically tastes like a barbecue sandwich had a tawdry dalliance with a burrito and this is the food-child. Sweet, savory. Melt-y and crunchy. Cohesive.
We also ordered two Mama Plates ($6.50, with one taco and two sides): one pork, and for an extra buck, shrimp. The shrimp Mama Plate – ordered by a male Times reporter who shall remain nameless – was OK. Not overtly seasoned even with the included chorizo. Some crunchiness from the pineapple slaw. But the pork Mama Plate was awesome. Again, the barbecue-Mexican offspring thing, while the Chimichurri Coconut Rice added a distinct and pleasant sweetness and the sauce had a spicy-mustard vibe. As sides, the black and pinto beans were alright.
In addition, we went with a Big Quesarrito ($8), which like the Crazy Carolina and Create Your Own Burrito ($8), was among four burrito offerings not listed on the menu on On-On’s website. (But a food truck with more options than what you see online is a positive situation. The reverse … not so much.) The Quessarito’s tender chicken, cheddar and jack cheeses, coconut rice, queso, salsa and black beans added up to aces.
The Create Your Own gives you access to apparently every topping in the truck. We kept it simple: BBQ Pineapple Cabbage Slaw, beans, sour cream and cheese, leaving it up the latter to the On-On cook to choose whichever he wanted. Unfortunately, he chose no cheese.
Other than that omission, the only slightly negative aspect of our On-On meal was they were out of guacamole. And steak, which only really took Weedy’s Steak Burrito off the table.
The Blue Pants beer? The pint of Workman Ale paired well with the Mex. Much more complex and flavorful than a typical lager, while the Hoppy Tripel balanced sweet and bitter notes. The taproom’s service was efficient and it was a hoot to watch the bartenders jump up to retrieve silver mugs stored high on the blue walls.
Food truck culture exudes an underground appeal. But if they’re going to viable as a business, a truck’s product has to be restaurant-worthy. On-On Taco’s is … and it’s totally worth a drive out to Madison, too.
Parked at Blue Pants Brewery
500 Lanier Road, Madison
Wednesday – Thursday: 4 – 8 p.m., Friday – Saturday: 4 – 9 p.m.
Recommendations: Chorizo nachos, pork tacos, Crazy Carolina Burrito.
Suggestions: Pair with Blue Pants’ Workman Ale.
Alcohol: They park outside a taproom.
Ambience: Food truck.
Service: Excellent for a food truck.
Vegetarian-friendly: Not more than average Mex.
Price range: Most entrees $6.50-$10.