DC: Sol Mexican Grill

The Sol Mexican Grill truck began roaming Washington in late February

by Tim Carman | WashingtonPost.com

The Sol Mexican Grill truck began roaming Washington in late February

The Sol Mexican Grill truck began roaming Washington in late February, a hot-rod-like mobile taqueria that I had hoped – a hope perhaps bordering on psychosis – would finally smuggle south-of-the-border street food into a city desperate for the flavors of Mexico. I mean, why not? Owner Fernando Postigo, a local construction worker, claims Mexico City cooking credentials.

But as I stand in front of Sol’s ordering window, directing the friendly Latina on how to build my tacos, I can feel the hope drain from me, like one more hapless Redskins fan watching the season implode after a single game. I ask the woman if I can get corn tortillas. She smiles and says no. I ask if I can get diced onions. No again. I ask if they have chopped cilantro instead of lettuce. Nope, but I’m told I can get my cilantro fix via the guacamole, corn and pico de gallo toppings instead.

What I’m left with is a trio of warmed flour tortillas wrapped around steak meat, pico de gallo, some lonely strands of lettuce and a powerful, pepper-infused homemade hot sauce. No one would mistake these tacos for the superb bites over at Taqueria La Placita in Hyattsville. The gringo-fication here is unmistakable.

Still, I have to admit: I gobbled down those tacos, not because they reminded me of Mexican street food, but because they were just plain tasty. I was particularly fond of the carnitas tacos, which Postigo stuffs with his succulent, slow-roasted pork spiked with achiote paste and orange juice. When paired with Postigo’s flamethrowing hot sauce, the carnitas taco makes for a heady bite, as subtle as a Dan Snyder lawsuit.

The trick is not to take advantage of Postigo’s hospitality. You have a startling number of options at a truck that sells only three dishes: tacos (three for $7), burritos ($7) and salads ($7). You pick a primary filler (steak, chicken, carnitas or veggie, with shrimp and tilapia coming soon) and then decide how many toppings to slather, sprinkle and drizzle over the top. Go easy. The more you add, the more you take away from the primacy of the star ingredient.

I learned that the hard way when I ordered a carnitas burrito loaded down until it resembled Albert Haynesworth on the first day of training camp. The monstrosity was bloated with sour cream, guac, corn, black beans and rice. I could barely spot a piece of meat inside that sea of starch and fat. I felt as if I was eating creamed corn or a taco salad that had melted in the sun. What I really wanted was Mexican food.