The only thing hotter than the asphalt on Central Avenue was the salsa slathered on hundreds of tacos sold Saturday at the third annual Taco Truck Cook-Off.
Temperatures reached 106 degrees and the sunshine was bright, but a few hundred taco truck enthusiasts joined the Lodi Arts Commission for a challenge to find the best tacos in Lodi. The party, complete with local folkloric dancers in swirling skirts and clicking boots, took over two blocks of Central Street between Eden and Hilborn Streets.
Last year’s champions were ready to defend their titles. La Bamba, who normally parks on Kettleman Lane and Stockton Streets, won judge’s choice last year. And La Picosita, who claims territory at Turner Road and Church Streets, has won People’s Choice for two years running.
Six judges were ready and waiting under a white tent for dozens of taco samples. City Councilman Bob Johnson was keen on just the basic taste of the taco, while Alex Osguera of Waste Management was looking for a nice spicy salsa. Shereen Hayes, of Lodi House Women’s Shelter, had her eye out for a crisp homemade tortilla shell.
The rest of the judges table included Connor Phillips, representing Micheal David Winery and Jeff Hood, director of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department. Volunteers brought in the plates of tacos, freshly made and identified by only a number.
The plates were divvied up. Each judge tried at least two tacos from each of the ten participating trucks. The sweat on their foreheads came from the heat, but the red in their cheeks was all spice. By round five, the judges were still going strong.
But while some ate for competitions sake, others were out enjoying lunch with the family.
Rico Flores and Angelica Corona brought Mason and Braden Flores, along with Emerick Flores, out to a shaded table with plates of asada tacos, cabeza tacos and chicken tacos.
“Once you go cabeza, you never go back,” said Emerick Flores.
But in the end, the decisions were not made by one man.
The judges selected La Bohemia, which can be found on Kettleman Lane and Hutchins.
And La Picosita continued its reign as the People’s Choice after 659 people’s votes were tallied overall.
“They won pretty much by a landslide,” said Cathy Metcalf, chair of the event committee.
Both trucks will use a special sign denoting them as winners for the next year.
The Mud Mill pottery painting shop donated the ceramic taco platter trophies, and children at Camp Hutchins crafting the ballot boxes to hold the People’s Choice votes.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.