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Menuplease: Romo’s Tacos Keeps on Truckin’

It was Amico del Signore who first tried the taco truck on Westside Road, and reported with huge enthusiasm how fabulous the food was.

When he first stopped by, a fellow diner waiting hungrily in line told him, “It’s the sauce. The sauces are way better than anywhere else. The enchilada sauce -” His voice trailed off, his eyes glazed over with shimmering images of rich dark red chile sauce. Amico del Signore is an experienced consumer of Mexican food and knows a rare gem when he tastes it, so it was just a matter of time – a couple of weeks – before Femme de Joie went with him to check out Romo’s Tacos.

Now, just stop with the catcalls of Roach Coach. Yes, mobile food trucks have had a bad rap over the years, and sometimes it was deserved. But the same could be said for just about any type of dining establishment. Femme de Joie can think of a few inexplicably popular places around town where she wishes she had thought to bring hand sanitizer to use after elbowing her way out of the ladies’ room, but that is another subject for another day. Check out Romo’s Tacos on the Food Facility Inspections page at http://www.co.shasta.ca.us/EHI/frmPubInspViol.aspx, then compare other well-known restaurants… or your favorite restaurant. You might be surprised. Or appalled.

Monday through Friday, Nemecio Romo  (he took over the former Taco Loco business from his father) drives his truck to a parking lot on Westside Road between the Capri Motel and Northern Roots to set up shop. (Romo is also the proprietor of El Paraiso in Anderson, where he serves an expanded menu in a pleasant sit-down cafe.) Though the truck is convenient to workers in a mainly industrial section of Redding that’s short on restaurants, patrons not working in the immediate area gladly drive miles to enjoy fantastic Mexican food at rock-bottom prices.

What you don’t get: a fancy table and chair, ceramic plates, a glass of water, a basket of chips and salsa. What you do get: substantial portions of amazing Mexican food.

Femme de Joie loves what are politely called variety meats, and she specified lengue (tongue) in this super burrito. Loaded with the works and topped with not-out-of-a-can tomato-and-chile sauce,  there was a ton o’ tongue here – a moist, tender and incredibly flavorful part of the cow that is unfortunately spurned by many. Too bad, because it makes very fine eating. It’s still beef. What are you waiting for? Give it a try. For $5.50, this has to be one of the biggest bargains in Shasta County.

Romo’s cheese enchiladas are simply the best of any available in the North State. (If you think you’ve had better, M. de Joie wants to know about it.) M. de Joie dreams about this sauce. It is by far the best enchilada sauce she has ever tried; the cheesy filling is not so fatty and overwhelming that it overpowers the other elements. Good Lord, these enchiladas are fantastic. There’s no other way to describe them.

Femme de Joie has tried tortas before and was underwhelmed. They just seemed like an average filling stuck on a cute little round bun with nothing special to recommend them. But the carne asada torta from Romo’s Tacos – well. The flavor of the marinated, grilled steak, combined with guacamole, tomatoes, sour cream, on a bolillo  will make you rethink all those fast food sandwiches you’ve been snarfing up all these years. For one thing, the bolillo is bread worthy of the name – not a bland Wonderbuns instafallapart roll, but a roll that holds together with texture and heft and won’t collapse in your lap. For another: steak nubbins cooked to order. Fresh guacamole and tomatoes are not just the usual suspects, but actually enhance the grilled meat. Amico del Signore believes this was the best sandwich he ever ate.

Tamales are one of those foods that fans love to debate. “Oh, man, the tamales we had at this restaurant in Lake Elsinore were the best ever.” “Are you kidding? Lake Elsinore? There’s no good Mexican food around there. You gotta go to this place on the highway outside Del Mar. It’s really a bar, but..” “I know you’re gonna think we’re nuts, but we had the best tamales at a gas station outside of Downieville.” And so it goes. The best tamales have yet to be universally agreed-upon, but the ones served up by Romo’s are in M. de Joie’s personal top five. Heavy on the masa, medium on the filling, light on the sauce, these aren’t meant to be an entire meal by themselves, but a few delicious savory bites of pork filling encased in a corn envelope.

As mentioned in this space before, Amico del Signore is a huge fan of chile rellanos. He visited Ramo’s Tacos twice and both times they had already sold out of that day’s supply of chile rellanos. The third time he was waiting when the truck drove up and pounced before anyone else had a chance. It was worth the wait: fat fresh green chiles stuffed with cheese, dipped in an ethereal egg batter and fried. These are superb.

Obviously if you’ve read this far, it’s clear that both Femme de Joie and consort Amico del Signore are besotted with Romo’s Tacos. The food is fantastically cheap, overflowing, and luscious. While lack of indoor dining facilities might be off-putting to some, it’s also a maxim that food tastes better outdoors. But if that doesn’t please you can always grab it to take home and scrape it onto your own plates. It doesn’t lose much in the translation. The same food is served at El Paraiso in Anderson (though the prices are higher), so you can indeed have it your way and order a beer to go with.

And how does Nemecio Romo view his adoring fans who make the drive to his truck, parked in a ever-so-slightly dodgy area?  Nearby, as the  bright yellow truck of a local sandwich shop opened for business, Romo told Amico del Singore that he doesn’t mind if anyone else wants to try to share the spotlight. “For me,” he said, “it’s all about the food.”

Romo’s Tacos, Westside Road Parking Lot between the Capri Motel and Northern Lights (south of  El Reno Lane). Open Monday-Friday, 11:00 am – 5:30 PM. Cash only. No alcohol. Takeaway service. On-site parking. Vegetarian options.

Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Chamberlain, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.