Our weekly bite explores the city's food trucks, one at a time, highlighting our favorite mobile dishes and snacks.
The Truck: Cholita Linda
The Cuisine: Mexican mixed with Peruvian with a dash of Cuban
Specialty Items: Tacos and aguas frescas
Worth the Wait in Line? At peak time, a total 20 minutes from the end of the line to food in hand.
A long line at a mobile food vendor, as dreaded as it may be, has an irresistible appeal. There is a sense (sometimes misguided) that the lengthy line is an endorsement for the deliciousness of food being served, a populist seal of approval. I often make a concerted and contrarian effort to hit the shortest line, but sometimes curiosity gets the better of me and I file in like a baby duckling.
While things don't always work out--I often kill more time than hunger--sometimes the crowds know what they're there for. On a recent sunny day, the snaking line at Cholita Linda and the large number of taco plates leaving the pick-up window proved too much to resist.
The crispy battered strips of fish in the Baja Fish Tacos (two for $8, three for $12; fried tilapia, salsa roja, cabbage salad, baja crema) were perfectly cooked. The batter was thick enough to keep the tilapia from drying out, but thin enough that it let the fish be the primary element. The expert hand on the fryer managed to keep most of the oil out of the fish, and the sauces and scant dollops of crema wound together around soft and fresh tortillas. If there were any way to bring the Baja beachside taco shack flavors any closer to my plate, it would have required teleportation.
With the Mexican beach side so perfectly articulated on a plate, you'd think that the cholita in name of the business references the lowrider set of Mexican-American culture, but in fact it alludes to the native and mixed heritage women of Peru. Vanessa Chavez, who operates the business with her husband Murat Sozeri, is mix of different cultures. Her mother is Peruvian-Chinese, while her father is Cuban-Mexican, but it was in it was in her Peruvian maternal grandmother's kitchen where she learned to cook.
That upbringing is what appears will be showcased a little more in the upcoming brick and mortar location, but at the mobile stalls set up at Oakland Farmers Markets and Off the Grid Sunday Picnic at the Presidio events its all about the tacos. A quick trip to Baja is worth a few minutes in line.