Newcomer Alebrijes food truck delivers bold, time-tested flavors
In Mexico, “alebrijes” is a nonsense word that refers to wildly colored little sculptures of surreal creatures with animalistic features.
In Columbus, Alebrijes refers to a recently launched superior taco truck whose no-nonsense specialty is barbecue-style grilled chicken.
If you were a fan of the defunct Los Potosinos taco truck — it was Alebrijes’ predecessor, and the newcomer has assumed its equipment — you won’t be surprised to taste how delicious that chicken is. You also won't be surprised to see sizable grills puffing out the appetite-inciting smoke of free advertising to customers pulling into the parking lot across from Ohio State East Hospital where Alebrijes is stationed.
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But you might be surprised to hear music from bands like the Roots issuing from the formerly red truck, whose current black lacquered exterior is decorated with Alebrijes’ eponymous fanciful animals. And you might be surprised to see specials such as chanterelle mushroom tortas and zucchini guacamole advertised on the taco truck’s Instagram feed.
You can thank what that IG feed calls “head cook” Alex Reyes for such out-of-the-box seasonal delights. It’s great knowing that Reyes — who was the guest chef at an ambitious recent tasting-menu meal at Cleaver — has these creative chops. Since specials are not always offered at Alebrijes, it’s also great knowing that the taco truck nails its regularly available items.
For example, the Grilled Chicken entree ($12) stars smoke-scented, simply but effectively seasoned chicken with crinkly skin and juicy meat (I ask for two thighs rather than the thigh and gigantic drumstick served by default). Sides are addictive refried black beans and uncharacteristically so-so Mexican rice.
If it’s offered and you enjoy spicy food, the same meat helps make the Mole con Pollo ($12, with rice and beans) a special you should order. With smoky poultry swamped in a rich and fragrant, roasted-chili-flavored sauce, it’s among the most distinct and best mole dishes I’ve had in Columbus.
Alebrijes’ Pork Ribs ($12, with rice and beans) are the porcine equivalent of its grilled chicken, as they’re prepared identically. And they are so big and meaty that after inhaling two of the four bones I was served I was pretty full. Did I stop eating? What do you think?
The signature chargrilled chicken is also chopped into one of several fillings for more standard taco-truck fare so good that I hesitate to call it “standard.” In addition to the chicken, my other favorite fillings were an intense chorizo and tender pork al pastor nubbins that tasted like a less-spicy version of the zesty chorizo.
Besides offering delicious meats, Alebrijes’ taco-truck fare is elevated by skillful griddle-toasting. So expect uncommonly inviting textures when you bite into: made-right Tacos ($2) in warm soft corn tortillas blanketed with cilantro and sprinkled with onions; toasty packed Quesadillas ($9); huge, well-constructed Burritos ($9; filled with meat, beans, rice, cheese and more) that don’t fall apart; and enormous, standout Tortas ($9) that arrive smashed and crisped like proper Cuban sandwiches.
Various salsas are offered and they’re all quite good. But my advice is to go green, because the super-bright tomatillo-based salsa verde brings loads of flavor but just a little sting. Asbestos-tongued diners can branch out into the searing-hot rojo, fruity and even hotter habanero and the mango habanero — an incendiary, fruit-and-onion relish.
To cool your taste buds, inquire about the available house-made Aguas Frescas ($2.50). The pure-tasting watermelon beverage I guzzled was like enjoying a refreshing blast of summer when the calendar was deep into autumn.
Speaking of the seasons, Alebrijes plans to serve through all four of them without taking a break. And I plan to support that hard work — while treating myself to some of the very best taco-truck fare in Central Ohio.
Alebrijes food truck
1500 E. Long St., Near East Side