At first, we were happy when Times contributor Tom Frazier turned in his latest column known as “Searching For What’s Happening.”
The column dealt with a perennial favorite topic among a wide variety of Mercedians: Taco Trucks, and which one is considered the best.
Now, it’s a big ask to narrow down the hundreds of taco trucks that line this city’s sidewalks and parking lots to just one that would be considered No. 1. It surely would be debated. But the culinary idea is also one of those lofty, provocative goals that the Times loves to support.
However, members of the Times staff were a bit disappointed by Frazier’s initial list of taco trucks for readers to check out. It was from a quick internet search of places listed for Merced, and indeed, it was fine and full of great places. A suitable start, if you will, to get readers going.
But the list did not include any of our top local favorites!
So alas: We’re going to take some editorial privilege, and start our own Times List of Best Taco Trucks.
Continue reading here, and check out Frazier’s column on the Back Page.
Corner of W. 9th and S streets
This unassuming, no-frills taco truck in south Merced might just be one of the city’s best kept secrets.
The charming Amparo Romero has grown the small business for the past four years with three selling points: a warm smile to greet customers, fresh ingredients, and wonderful handmade tortillas that she flattens herself with a small wooden press right next to the fryer.
When a Times photographer visited the place this week, there was a City of Merced employee waiting in line for lunch. He just gave a nod, an all-knowing smile, and said: “It’s all good in the hood.”
Yes, this is a neighborhood favorite right next to the quaint Best Buy Market and the Laundry World laundromat. It’s also near a Times newsstand that one of our delivery workers fills every week. That’s how we discovered the taco truck! The newsstand actually becomes a makeshift table for some of Chito’s customers. We don’t mind as long as people clean up their mess after eating. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
Anyway, some well-known local leaders and personalities are known to frequent Chito’s. In the afternoons, you might catch Merced County Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza there munching on a taco, along with his buddy, Arturo Barajas, a local Mariachi performer. City Councilman Fernando Echevarria might be there too. He loves talking street food in his “District 2” almost as much as he does talking local politics!
Two locations: 3006 G St, 1400 Yosemite Parkway
Two of our staff members nominated Danny’s Tacos — Reporter John Miller and Page Designer Chloe Peterson.
Peterson prefers Danny’s Taco’s because the meat is crispy and the prices are good.
“It’s like an “elevated” street taco,” she says, “authentic but a little more polished (just a little), and the flavors are just so pure and delicious. Even in the basic carne asada tacos that I get; it’s simple but incredible.”
Miller says, “I get their torta when I go there. They’re delicious and come with peppers to add some spice, and it’s more than enough food for anyone and fresh each day. Aside from that, if their tortas are sold out, their nachos and tacos are always a good solid option.”
You can find the Danny’s Taco truck — it has the signature, modern-looking Black paint job — at two locations: both are in the parking lots of 76 gas stations on G Street and Yosemite Parkway. There’s pretty much always a line for tacos, but the wait is short and worth it.
They also have some surprisingly cool menu items and specials of the day, including things like “Birria Ramen,” “Surf & Turf,” “Hot Shrimp,” “Asada Nachos” and “Pozole” on occasions.
7260 Walnut Ave, Winton just off Santa Fe Drive
OK, so this taco truck is NOT in Merced, but we all know where this is going.
Surely residents all over Merced County are going to have strong opinions on the best taco trucks in their town.
So here’s a great option, let’s say, that’s close to Merced and worth the drive.
For this one, we refer to Times reporter Yanira Ledezma who was born in Mexico, raised in the Atwater-Winton area, and has been around Taco Truck cuisine all her life.
Here’s what she says:
“Los Serranos off of Santa Fe in Winton are by far the best tacos in the county.
“I remember they used to have a drive thru where Mister Car Wash in Atwater now currently resides. We used to live around the area when I was growing up, and every week my dad would get us all together in the car and we would make our trip to Serranos. Although I was only 5 or 6 at the time, I remember always ordering an horchata with my order of two tacos. They always included white and yellow shaved cheese on their tacos, and at the time, that was not something a regular taco truck did, at least not around this area. “They closed a couple years later and I can’t remember if I ever had an order of goodbye tacos.
“Part nostalgia, and partly because of my love for tacos, I have always gravitated towards the truck in Winton. I do no not if it is owned by the original owners, or even if they have any correlation to the original drive-thu shop, but the tacos are just as good!
Most of the time they will add cheese, and sometimes even cabbage. My order consists of three asada tacos, salsa verde y con queso, and a Mexican coke on the side.