Ninety seconds is how long it took me to inhale the three tacos from yesterday’s La Carnita event. This was the third pop-up event for them where customers buy a piece of art and get three tacos. For this installment they moved from their usual spot at 445 King Street West to the Wellington Avenue front yard of media agency Bensimon Byrne.
La Carnita’s fantastic lime-heavy yucatan pork and Voltron fish tacos (fried Pacific cod and accompaniments), went very well with the spicy braised short rib offering from El Gastronomo Vagabundo. Each taco had two or three complementary, bright, clean flavours that alternated time in the spotlight. At ten bucks and with a groovy piece of art from Gentlemen of Canada thrown in this is a pretty great deal for lunch.
It was obvious that Adam and Tamara from El Gastro, and the La Carnita crew in the truck were working as fast and as hard as possible to feed hungry patrons. I’m looking forward to another opportunity to try the El Gastro offerings at the second Food Truck Eats event on August 20.
Unfortunately, ninety minutes (from just after they opened at noon to one-thirty) was how long it took me to get my hands on the tacos. A long lineup, run on the first-come-first-serve, and one-per-customer basis is an honest thing that no one joins without knowing they’re going to be waiting. And maybe waiting a long time. Vary from the system and it’s an entirely different beast.
Having a good idea when they were going to run out is a matter of counting the people in line and so long as every customer is limited to one order it’s simple math. This system was only implemented in the late innings and flexed easily in the face of a “pretty please” from a woman a few in front of me.
At the taco table I suggested that in future they implement a number system (the type you’ll recognise from just about every butcher shop and deli counter) but that was met with an “uhmhhhhhh…” and a frosty silence. It was hectic and they were busy but I can only assume that the reticence here was because that would harsh the buzz of people blithely joining friends in line (I counted eight additions to the fifty or so spots in front of me that I could easily observe) while black t-shirted gentlemen make another silent count. And of course this would make it more complicated for the same gentlemen to pull friends of the house (friends of the truck? sidewalk?) from the back of the line for special treatment.
Now just like a sitcom nightclub, La Carnita is a private business and it’s their prerogative to operate their velvet rope however they choose. In fairness they have said on Twitter that “We’re going to make a few changes to the next pop-up to step-up the experience.” but until they’ve got the lineup thing figured out I won’t be back.
It’s about the art, it’s about the food, but at ninety minutes it’s also very much about the lineup.