Vamos con Gloria’s crunchy little two-bite tacos are far above par. After devouring a gut-busting feast of their tacos dorados, I ambled back up to the window of the bustling food truck to ask Elder, the youth working inside, what he thought set them apart from the scores of other food trucks all over town that serve up their own hot, delicious tacos. He didn’t hesitate. “My mom, Gloria, makes every tortilla by hand, fresh every morning we are out here. … Also we are from Guadalajara, so we kind of have different styles than most of the more Norteño spots around.” Elder was right. Their tacos’ flavor and quality, a result of Gloria’s skill, experience and hard work, put this humble-looking taco-truck in its own league.
Vamos con Gloria is located on the east side of S. Broadway and Trumbull, parked in front of a wig factory. I first noticed the simple red food truck with the interesting name because it has started to generate a pretty impressive crowd on Friday nights. Lines at their competitors to the south have been dwindling as word spreads of Gloria’s masterful Jalisco-style street food. Elder explained that when they first got started many customers were ordering soft tacos, burritos and tortas, because they were not yet familiar with the regional specialties on offer. But during the summer, the family-run spot won a loyal customer base by giving out samples of their specialty: the taco dorado, or hard taco. The tactic paid off: Word spread far and wide, and the spot is no longer a neighborhood secret. Vamos con Gloria has achieved a cult following.
When I approached the window to order, I knew from previous experiences that the Tacos de Gloria (six for $8) were a must have, but I wanted to dig deeper into their menu. Gloria’s daughter, who returned my “buenas tardes” and then kindly switched to English, took my order. I went for the aforementioned house specialty, the sopes (six for $7), tacos dorados de barbacoa (six for $8), tacos dorados de frijol (six for $6) and—because I just couldn’t resist—the carne asada fries (a small for $5). I was handed a small restaurant pager and told that it would buzz when the order was ready. This was a nice touch—both pandemic-wise and in general—as it allows people waiting for their orders to spread out instead of crowding around the truck. The only minor issue I had in ordering was that prices are not listed out front. However, that does lend an air of mystery that is somewhat alluring.
Around 10 minutes later, the pager buzzed and two bags were handed to me. Each container was sealed with a cute, custom “Vamos con Gloria” sticker, and my orders were neatly and securely packed. It all could have survived the trip home … if I’d been able to hold out that long before digging in. I started with the Tacos de Gloria. These two-bite hard tacos are housed in exceptional corn tortillas that have been fried to a crunchy golden brown and then dipped into a nice spicy broth. The beef and cheese combine for an intense savoriness, while the touch of cabbage offers a needed vegetable balance and plays off the fried tortilla for added crunch. The Tacos de Gloria are available without the spice, but I recommend going for the hot version—even if it means that you end up wolfing down a whole order before even trying the other food. The frijol and barbacoa tacos dorados were excellent in their own right. The bean version really lets you focus on how truly great Gloria’s tortillas are. The barbacoa is the richest of the three, its phenomenally succulent beef—the result of patient, slow-and-low braising.
The Sopes Gloria are another hit. These small discs have a more substantial corn-cake base than a taco, and their toppings are similar to Gloria’s specialty tacos, but they are drizzled with a mild tomato sauce. The small order of carne asada fries remained, even though I was well beyond stuffed. This unabashedly heavy dish—an excellent value—was tasty in a simple, meat-and-potatoes kind of way.
Strolling around the block after finishing my food, I checked some of Vamos con Gloria’s many online reviews. On Facebook Blas F. Vasquez posted, “The only issue I have with Vamos is that I’ve ate there like four times in the last 1.5 weeks.” Ha, same. Living just a few blocks away, I find myself resisting the call of those crunchy yet pillowy tacos and the carne asada fries pretty much daily. Like other regional street specialties from Mexico, these hard tacos may just prove dangerously addictive for some of you out there. Fair warning.
Before going home to nap off yet another food stupor, I asked Elder one last question. With birria, a spicy soul-warming goat or mutton stew originally from Gloria’s home state of Jalisco, gaining popularity across Gringolandia (the U.S.), would they consider adding it to the menu or at least offering a special some day? Most spots in town offer a beef version of this trending dish; and while it is tasty, I have been fiending for the genuine article. Elder gave me a knowing smile and said that he hears that question every day. I came away without a real answer, and the truth is, we birria fanatics will have to wait and see. Regardless of whether Vamos con Gloria ends up expanding their menu or even adding a new location to meet demand, one thing seems guaranteed: Quality and attention to detail will continue to reign supreme as long as Gloria keeps cranking out those exceptional tortillas, fresh each and every weekday.
READERS TAKE NOTE: I am getting my final COVID vaccine shot tonight and plan to start dining in with more regularity in coming weeks. If you have come across any new or interesting spots that you would like to see reviewed here in the paper please email me with suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Category: Food Truck
Neighborhood: San Jose/South Broadway
Cuisine: Mexican (Guadalajara-style Street Food)
Hours: Mon. to Fri., 5:30-9:30pm