The aroma of cumin and chili powder wafted over the nine taco trucks that lined Central Avenue in Lodi on Saturday morning. The shouts of “Carnitas!” or “Pollo!” echoed over the excited voices of those eager to dig into the day’s numerous Mexican food options.
A line of round tables shaded by white umbrellas housed numerous families and friends hunched over plates of steaming, fresh tacos, quesadillas and burritos.
It was time to eat.
The annual Taco Truck Challenge, which ran from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Central Avenue between Hilborn and Eden Streets, had droves of hungry locals lining up by the start of the event.
And the general mentality amongst customers was not to eat just one taco from one truck.
It was to eat one meal from each of the nine trucks by the end of the event.
Throughout the day, a majority of Lodians looked as if they had proudly and successfully stuffed their bellies before heading home.
At just a half-hour into the challenge, Lodi resident Wally Kobayashi and his wife, Susan, had already visited two taco trucks and were heading to their third. Kobayashi’s goal? To eat one taco, be it chicken, beef, pork or fish, from all nine trucks.
Susan Kobayashi said she had just eaten breakfast and had yet to join her husband, who was standing in line at La Picosita, last year’s winner.
Kobayashi, however, raved about the tacos he had just eaten, and he was pondering whether to get a chicken or fish taco at La Picosita.
Like last year, this year’s Taco Truck Challenge was judged by both a select group of city officials and the general public. Chosen judges included Mayor JoAnne Mounce, Lodi Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Pat Patrick and city manager Rad Bartlam.
Of the nine taco trucks taste-tested by the judges, La Fondita was deemed the winner by just one vote. According to event organizer Cathy Metcalf, a few other taco trucks were right behind La Fondita in the race to be voted the best by the judges.
The public’s choice was once again La Picosita, Metcalf said, and by a landslide. La Picosita received 193 votes. The next closest competitor received 100 votes.
The votes were not from a small group of half-hearted attendees either, Metcalf said. Of the roughly 900 people who came to the challenge Saturday, almost 600 people voted.
But whether they went for tacos or burritos, Lodians said the day was a great way to come out and enjoy the sun and some seriously good Mexican food.
City spokesman Jeff Hood was one of the many who ate from all nine trucks — but with a catch.
Hood and his son decided to eat only chicken tacos from every available truck option, and to split them.
“If you think about it, four and a half tacos, that’s a lot,” Hood said.
Lodi residents Becky Schmierer and Tracy Vaughn, however, felt differently.
“Bring it on,” said the slim women, who were happily munching on beef tacos.
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at email@example.com.