February 11, 2022 | OPINION | By Hank Bedingfield | Photo by Claire Bogart
“Take me to where the day-laborer finds his lunch, and I’ll show you where man can rest.”
Tearing down Union Boulevard with low spirits and an empty stomach, it can be too easy to swerve desperately towards the nearest drive-thru and accept whatever sub-par creation comes your way.
The sunny, bluebird sky of Colorado Springs stared down mockingly I lived out this misadventure. My eyes dart with anxious mania, left-and-right, from strip mall to strip mall. La Flor de Jalisco, a steel food truck with a tranquil depiction of an ocean-side field, is where my desperate eyes landed.
The truck has found sanctuary, and unpretentious patrons, in one of the many vast parking lots beside the busy boulevards of Colorado Springs. It’s wedged humbly between a plumbing supply store and Walmart. If you don’t notice the supply store right away, its presence will become almost imposing as the various vans that patronize it circle the food truck like covered wagons preparing for a frontier skirmish.
Almost every food truck falls into one of two camps — the fusion-concept work of bandana-toting culinary hipsters, spreading their Los Angeles culture like the plague, or a slightly-haunted, steam-and-sweat-emitting, no-frills, box on wheels.
La Flor de Jalisco is the latter, and while this might set me apart from self-proclaimed foodies looking for a slice of Williamsburg, Brooklyn — with their Blundstones, copper bands, and thumb rings — I think that’s a good thing.
The menu is plain and simple, with three categories — “Regular choice of meat,” “Prime Choice of meat,” and “Vegetarian”. Whatever your choice, you’ll have a hard time spending over $10 — a fact that the blue-collar clientele know well.
I ordered a lengua burrito, cow tongue with the classic fixings (beans, rice, onion, cheese, salsa, cilantro) and a cabeza torta, made with the cheek meat from a cow and a similar spread of toppings. For those more squeamish, options like carnitas, chicken, and steak are also available.
Many turn to food trucks for their quick, grab-and-go availability. At Flor de Jalisco, this was not an aspect I can highlight. The food took a while — almost 15 minutes — which is a long time, considering each item only had one cooked ingredient.
For better or worse, this left more time for contemplation, and the silent meditation of people-watching. It can be so fruitful in the Springs. To my left, also waiting for food, young high school lovers played around a 20-foot snow mound, the last storm’s dirty snow detritus from the roads. They cackled madly with longing eyes and held each other like jumper cables. My first thought was that they might have been huffing glue and decided to make a date of it.
The sprawling asphalt was a naked, half-dead, expanse. The four-lane road screamed along-side. Did manifest destiny come to this? The Great American Empire? Was it worth all the killing?
I was shaken back to reality by the familiar sound of a freshly-opened coke and was quickly sedated by the feel of a glass bottle containing the bliss of cane-sugar and carbonation by the half-liter. The food was ready shortly after.
The lengua burrito brought a resemblance I never saw coming. Each ingredient seemed to mold and emulsify into one and late-night, nearly repressed, musings of Taco Bell sublimated to my confused taste buds. The tongue itself, usually known for a slightly springy texture and rich flavor, brought back childhood memories of liver that I couldn’t shake. My sense of gastronomical adventure had outpaced my tolerance and it was more than I could comfortably handle.
The torta brought a texture any luncher could want: the soft roll, the crunch of onion, lettuce, and tomato, the tender love of melted cheese and beef. The cabeza, traditionally prepared by slow-roasting an entire cow’s head until the meat is so tender that it falls from the skull, tasted like a philly cheese steak, but with a richness that ribeye on the flat-top just can’t reach.
I asked, and La Flor de Jalisco delivered.