Key West Dining makes you think of fancy water-front eateries, fine linens, long lists of wine selections that you’ll pretend you recognize and Zagat-rated cuisine, right? There are plenty of those places, and they’re all reviewed in depth all over TripAdvisor and on every Pinterest board related to Key West. Taco Grilla isn’t there. Yet. My guess? It’s going to be, and it’s going to be sooner rather than later.
I’ll admit, I had speculated about it from the day we first drove into town until now, but other hilarity had kept me from stopping. It’s a food truck, which is cool and awesome, right? Because up north, food trucks are a big thing. There are even shows about them like Food Truck Face Off and The Great Food Truck Race. They’re so amazing, some really swanky restaurants have bought their own and send them out to cater parties and go to events.
And who doesn’t love tacos? (Except for Murphy, who is on an all-beef diet at the moment so he can be 11 and 6′ tall.) And who doesn’t love gorillas? And a badass cool Gorilla Taco truck? You know I had to go. Also, as I do, I persuaded some co-workers that they needed to try it with me, which wasn’t as hard to do as it might seem because I offered to pay for lunch.
Plus, they have this awesome actual guy in a gorilla costume, who pops up all over the island and ends up on Facebook and Instagram. What? I’m a sucker for kitschy, funny advertising. And does this not make you laugh?
It’s not cat videos, but he’s pretty funny and memorable, and one new goal Murph and I have is to get in a photo with him. No idea how we’re doing that.
Right about the time they announced they were delivering to my neck of the woods (because nobody delivers to the Key West Golf Club, I headed over on a hot Tuesday afternoon for lunch.
First, it’s situated on U.S. 1, which is the only road into and out of Key West between We Cycle (infamous for the Zombie Bike Ride that kicks off Fantasy Fest every year) and Key West Tattoo Company.
This only adds to its kitschy flair, in my humble opinion. Because Key West is nothing if not unexpected, unusual, eclectic, weird and cool. So the location for a Taco Grilla truck? Kind of perfectly Key West. I had no trouble parking, but I could see it maybe being an issue as their business picks up and crowds start to figure out just how awesome the place is.
Also, what you can’t see from the street driving past? They have a clean, quiet, little grotto with picnic tables, umbrellas for shade and lovely plants. So you really don’t feel like you’re eating on the side of a major road. It’s set back from the street and perfect if you want to eat there.
Nice, right? I drive past this place several times a day, and I would never have noticed it if I had not gotten out of my car and walked around to take photos after I placed my order.
And that was tough. I wanted to try all of the things, especially after reading the Facebook reviews. I settled on the Surf & Turf Bowl and Shrimp Tacos, and I treated myself to a BaMango Smoothie because what is this island if not full of mango. I admit I was a little disappointed that there was no option to add rum or vodka or tequila to the smoothie, but I’m betting if I had brought a bottle, they’d have thrown it in the blender. Key West is fun like that. Also, I was going back to work with the treats, so probably the beverage options are entirely appropriate.
For a food truck, I think they’ve got just enough menu options. Tacos, Bowls, Burritos, and Salad, to which you can add shrimp, steak or vegan sausage. Right? A vegan option? I’m not a vegan, but I always appreciate an option for folks with food sensitivies and proclivities, and this place is a winner there.
They took my order really quickly, and it took maybe 8 minutes to prepare. It felt like a long time because it was hot and sunny that day, but it’s really not because they don’t have everything pre-prepared. They are actually making fresh food in what looked like a spotlessly clean food truck. I’m new here from Philly, and I know what food trucks can look like. This one? Super-clean. And the smells while I was waiting? OMG. Soooo good.
I opted to do take away because I wanted to bring it back to work, which is basically across the street, so everyone around could give it a try. Before I left, they asked if I wanted sriracha sauce or avocado on the side. I didn’t, but I did want to ask if they had any avocado pits back there for the cats’ drinking fountain (more on that in a later post), but I didn’t feel like we’d reached that level of friendship and familiarity yet. They prolly would have handed me some anyway and not batted an eyelash or even asked why, though. Key West is strange and fun like that.
I took the food back to work, though I was tempted to take it home and eat it all because it smelled so delicious. Also, they pack it in these adorable boxes that are environmentally-friendly, unlike the dreaded styrofoam.
I drank my BaMango Smoothie, the virgin variety, in the car, and it was delicious. Clearly fresh fruit, and if I had to describe the taste, I would say, “summer in a cup” or “South Florida” or just delicious. It wasn’t too cold so you couldn’t drink it with a straw, and it wasn’t runny. They’ve clearly got the fruit-juice-ice ratio just right in relation to the insanely hot July temps here which probably requires both skill and math. I even think Murph would like that one.
I liked the orange and mango blended with the banana, which gave it a thicker consistency. I am becoming something of a mango-expert in my quest to achieve mango ice-cream perfection. What? Yes, I am still at that. I don’t have any friends here, okay? I need something to do besides chase Murph around in the ocean.
First, we opened the shrimp tacos.
And then we opened the Surf & Turf Bowl.
Once we dug in, we were quiet for a while we ate. Then, came the comments, which I recorded.
“Can you believe we work across the street and none of us has been there before?”
“Does that gorilla go out and catch fresh fish every day?”
“How much was all of this?”
“What are they using to season this steak?”
“I think this is better than the fish tacos I had in Baja.”
“It would be wrong to bring visitors to campus here, right?”
You see, this was deliciousness in a box. The steak was tender and seasoned perfectly to blend with the other flavors in the box. In fact, that’s a good way to describe it: a box of perfectly matched, complementary flavors that did not compete with another. None dominate, all worked together to be just sumptuous. It was a little salty, and a little savory, with a dash of citrus. And everything was so fresh that you could taste it. I really liked their coconut sour cream, which I’d never had before, and we agreed that the chimichurri was just right. We were a little floored, too, because we all had some of it, and for $12? That box went a long way. We agreed that it was a definite winner, and would easily serve two or three people.
The shrimp tacos were ahmazing as well. They were flavory and warm. The soft taco shells were not heavy or doughy; they were light and warm. The shrimp were large, seasoned lightly and plentiful. The cilantro tasted like they had just cut it off a plant, and their jicama cabbage slaw is really, really good. The salsa was super fresh. And for $8? That was a lot of really great food.
We started speculating that what they are not spending on overhead for a fancy address and view, they are spending on really fresh, high-quality ingredients. That’s kind of awesome.
We agreed that it’s got to be a go-to on our list of lunch spots, especially since it’s delicious and affordable. I’m lucky enough that it’s open for dinner, and they’re delivering now, too. That’s a big combo (delicious fresh food, affordable and delivery) that’s hard to find in Key West.
I didn’t ask if they were doing catering, but I’d bet that something could be arranged if you asked. Yeah, it’s that good. I’d order it if I were entertaining. I mean, it’d be better if the big gorilla truck could come park out front, but it seems kind of stationary, and I’d settle for the food with glee.
It’s definitely a place I’d recommend for people who want to come down to the island but stay on a budget. Or if you’re sailing or boating or fishing on or near Stock Island, it’s the perfect place to stop. I would not recommend eating in the car. I think that would be messy. Possible, but the risk of drips and stains would be high.
It’s time for Key West Food Tours to add a name to their old list of best food trucks. This place is up and coming and could definitely give the others a run for their money.
Go give it a try!
*I am not a professional food critic, but I am a consistent food consumer as are my colleagues. I paid for the food, and I did not tell them I’d be writing a review. I received no compensation of any form for this, and my policy for reviewing products/food/events on this blog is that if I can’t say good things, I don’t say anything at all.