Food truck review: Teodora’s Kitchen trucks out good Panamanian food

From the April 3, 2014 edition

Panamanian food is rare around these parts — in fact the only specialist in the fare I know of is a mobile vendor called Teodora’s Kitchen. A mother-and-daughter-starring food truck, Teodora’s has been garnering buzz at weekly concession-dishing gigs for kitchen-less beer halls such as Seventh Son and Zauber Taproom. Since I hadn’t yet visited the new Zauber locale, I caught up with the less-than-a-year-old Teodora’s during its regular Sunday stop there.

If you haven’t been, the huge window-flaunting, concrete-block-constructed Zauber is roomy, airy, slick and good-looking — like the most handsome and cleanest converted garage in Grandview. Under alternating green and white naked bulbs, there’s footie on three TVs, jazzy picnic tables and 18 taps.

So I grabbed some suds (Note: Zauber’s own brews are currently available only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but always-here local beers go for an un-cheap $6.50/pint; flights of five four-ouncers — served in a cute metal caddy — cost $10) then stepped outside to order at Teodora’s. In less than 10 minutes (I’d arrived early, and business was just picking up), a friendly Teodora’s worker delivered my grub. The scratch-made stuff was damn good.

The best bargain and flavors on Teodora’s small menu that day — and my new favorite food truck entree — was the mammoth Carne Frita ($10). It was a soulful and zestily seasoned (just-tingly, not spicy), sorta fajita-esque beef stew in which commendably tender meat chunks were married to hacked-and-cooked onions plus stewed tomatoes. Ratcheting up the already-fine value was surprisingly good white rice, a generous serving of savory lentils and (as with all entrees here) a customer-picked side dish — go with the killer tostones (crispy, not greasy, golden-brown-fried plantain coins).

Teodora’s Empanadas (2/$8) were also excellent. Pretty, puffy and crispy-yet-pliable, masa-flour pastry pouches held finely ground beef with a chili-powder-like seasoning. For your side, try Teodora’s distinct potato salad — mayo-rich and pink from the addition of beets.

Teodora’s Fish Tacos (3/$9; try the crunchy, freshly fried chips and spicy salsa for your side) came on decent soft corn tortillas and featured fresh, rich, zingy and generous garnishes of cilantro, salsa and slaw. The attractively cornmeal-battered, could’ve-been-more cod nuggets were a tad chewy and a bit lost under their heavy and messy accompaniments, so I’d call this still-not-bad entree a qualified success.

Photo by Jodi Miller