Food Trailer Friday: Chi’lantro
Korean tacos, a hybrid of Asian and Mexican flavors served out of taco trucks, are all the rage in LA. While it might seem counter-intuitive, it turns out that the traditional Korean flavors of bulgogi are perfectly tasty when wrapped up in a fresh tortilla, which have the added benefit of being a portable. What started as a California phenomenon has become a nation-wide trend, and Chi’lantro BBQ is Austin’s first Korean BBQ truck (joined recently by Calibi BBQ). According to their website, Chi’lantro’s tacos, burritos, and bowls “meld Korean tastes and tradition with Texas’ rich Hispanic culture at a recession-proof price.” All-in-all, Chi’lantro has the makings of a tasty and affordable meal.
A few weeks ago I visited Chi’lantro at their typical downtown location at 2nd and Congress and found that they live up to the marketing on their website. Surveying the menu, I discovered that Chi’lantro features four different types of protein –beef, spicy pork, spicy chicken, and tofu – which can be wrapped in corn tortillas for tacos or a flour tortilla as either a burrito or quesadilla. And, if you’re feeling particularly American, you can get any of those flavors as a burger or as a topping for a hot dog. They also have spicy or kimchi fries to round out the meal. For my first visit I opted to stay true to the idea of the Korean taco and order, well, tacos. At only $2 they are a steal and two were more than enough for a hearty lunch.
The flavorful and tender bulgogi beef was topped with a sweet yet tangy salad, onions, cilantro, and a lovely salsa. The extra squirt of lime was just the right final touch to brighten up the whole experience. The chef at Chi’lantro has worked hard to make a complex combination of flavors work well together and I can promise you these tacos are like nothing you’ve had before. I can highly recommend Chi’lantro as a food trailer adventure you’ll very much enjoy.
Word on the Street
- Michelle of Foodie is the New Forty has written not one but two posts about her visits to Chi’lantro. And while she has her criticisms of the food, she provides some great insight into the owner Jae’s passion and why we should all want more businesses like his to succeed in our town.
- The Austin: Keeping it Foodie blog includes a very detailed write-up of an experience, complete with photos and some thoughts on what you might order on your first visit.
- Teddy from Fun With Your Food gives Chi’lantro the vegetarian thumbs up in a picture-laden tale of her visit to the truck.
- Jodi of Tasty Touring says Chi’lantro lives up to the hype and declares her taco experience perfect.
- The Yelp community has been generally positive about Chi’lantro. They like the concept of the Asian-Taco fusion and have largely liked what they’ve tried. There are a few comments about an individual menu item not being fantastic or a service issue or two, but the overall sentiment is that it’s well worth a visit.
Know Before You Go
- Unlike some trailers in town that are more-or-less permanently stationed at their site, Chi’lantro moves around. They tend to spend their lunch hours in busy business areas like downtown or the Domain, and they migrate to the UT campus area for the evenings. They post their weekly schedule on their website, but the best way to know where they are going to be is to follow them on Twitter.
- As of early May, Chi’lantro takes credit cards, but given that their tacos are only $2 each and the credit card companies charge a processing fee, give this local business a break and pay cash when you can (unless you’re picking up a couple of dozen tacos to share with friends).