Note: The 2009 Vendy Awards, a celebration of New York street food, will be held on September 26 at the Queens Museum of Art (buy tickets here). All proceeds will benefit the Street Vendor Project, an arm of the Urban Justice Center, advocating for the interests of New York street vendors. This year's five finalists will all be on hand to feed the crowds, the judges, and compete for the ultimate title in street food. Each day this week, we'll be profiling one of the finalists.
Fernando Martinez and his wife Jolanda spend their weekends patting down many a masa patty, so the world can eat more huaraches. These piles of Mexican goodness, the truck's specialty, are burrito-sized, but get folded up like a soft taco and wrapped in a paper plate to prevent drippage (which is pretty impossible to prevent, actually). On both Saturday and Sunday, they can be found at the Red Hook ballfields at the intersection of Clinton and Bay, and have a satellite branch at the Brooklyn Flea. Just look for the line that doesn't seem to be moving--with people in it that don't seem to care. Yeah, it's that good.
The famous huaraches ($6) are what most people are waiting for (a typical line stretches to about a half-hour). Starting as oblong wads of masa, a thick dough made of dried corn, these huarache jackets puff up on the griddle, then get filled with a soft layer of beans, your choice of meat (pork is a big hit), shredded lettuce, and fresh guacamole--and don't forget the salsa station on the truck's "counterspace."
The tacos (two for $6) are equally fresh and satisfying, just in smaller form. The two tortillas (not as thick and crispy as the huarache base) can be stuffed with chicken, pork, carne asade, or even grilled spinach for vegetarians.
Quesadillas ($6) have the same heft as the huaraches and are grilled with oozy whole-milk mozzarella. A paper plate tacked onto the truck, serving as a menu addendum, will alert you of a special shrimp quesadilla--and unless you are stopped by dietary restrictions, get it. The little shrimp wads mixed with the cheese, cilantro-spiked guacamole, and sour cream combine so many great textures and flavors, and will make you uncomfortably full, but embrace it.
Though it's commonly referred to as the "Martinez Taco Truck" (taco is probably easier to say than huarache) they got a new (well, used) truck recently that says "Country Boys" on the hood with a plump, vaguely French-looking chef cartoon. Now the menu signage all says "Country Boys," and Martinez explains that the food is traditional of the Pueblan country-style in Mexico, where he's from. Eh, or that was just the name already on the truck. Semantics aside, this stuff is good.
Martinez will likely serve tacos and huaraches at the Vendys. When he found out about his big finalist status over the weekend, he immediately affixed his special gold sealed Vendy poster onto the truck, beamed a bit, then got back to huarache-related duties.
Country Boys aka Martinez Taco Truck in Red Hook
Red Hook Ballfields on Saturday and Sunday
Corner of Clinton and Bay in Red Hook, Brooklyn NY 11231 (map)
Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene on Saturdays
176 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11238 (map)
Vendy Video: Country Boys aka Martinez Taco Truck in Red Hook
For more info on the Vendy Awards, visit streetvendor.org/vendys.