The 13th Taco served its first customer just last month on a Friday the 13th, but David Peraza-Arce insists that’s just a coincidence.
Peraza-Arce, who describes himself as “chef/creator/investor” (the “chef” part boasting a resume that includes Mez, Jibarra and currently, Gonza Tacos y Tequila) had originally hoped to launch the business by early April with his wife, Marilyn, and a third partner, Jeremy Mitchell. But food truck startups, like their restaurant counterparts, are not immune to the usual delays.
The truck’s wrap (that’s the decorative artwork on the truck itself, not the edible kind) still wasn’t finished when my wife and I stumbled across it the first time at the Fortnight brewery in Cary, just a week later. Marilyn Peraza-Arce, who takes orders while Jeremy Mitchell does most of the cooking, assured me that the food was ready for prime time.
Is it ever. The truck lives up to its motto – “Everything fits in a tortilla!” – with inventive riffs on taqueria-style tacos, served three to an order on locally made tortillas. For now, the selection runs to just five variations on the theme, but covers a wide spectrum of flavors from Porky (smoked pork belly topped with a dark, complex salsa prieta, tart apple pico de gallo and sesame seeds on soft corn tortillas) to Vegged Out (grilled seasonal local vegetables and mole oil on flour tortillas).
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We ordered the Moo Moo, which Marilyn Peraza-Arce said had already become the best-seller. We enthusiastically joined the growing fan club for this one, which piles on the marinated grilled skirt steak, thick-cut smoky bacon, fire-roasted onion, zippy salsa roja and crumbled queso with such a generous hand you’ll need extra napkins.
We also liked Fish Tales: fingers of grilled salmon (nicely charred but still moist), salsa verde and roasted local asparagus, garnished with a bright confetti of diced ripe mango and red pepper. Offered as the chef’s Grand Opening special, the salmon is slated to be replaced soon by an “outside the box” riff on a Baja mahi taco that David Peraza-Arce has cooked up.
If we had known that every order of tacos comes with chips and salsa, we probably wouldn’t have also ordered a nacho version of the Porky. Nah, who am I kidding? I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Mexican street corn – poached on the cob, then fire-roasted to order just before getting a blanket of Mexican crema and cotija cheese – rounded out our feast. We would have capped it off with a dessert of churro bites, which the menu tantalizingly promises are rolled in cinnamon and sugar and served with a chile-chocolate fondue, but they weren’t available that night.
“That’s too bad,” David Peraza-Arce said when I spoke with him later on the phone and told him about the 86’ed churro bites. “My wife makes those, and they’re the best. We’ve got ’em going now.”
Not to worry, we’ll be back. We’ve already got three punches on our loyalty card – which, as it turns out, is the real reason for the food truck’s name. Buy 12 orders of tacos, get the 13th free.
If you ask me, though, I still say that in this case opening on Friday the 13th looks like a good omen.