I had BIG expectations for Spring 2020. I was ready to travel, play Ultimate Frisbee, and participate in races. After my major debacle in 2019, I was ready for a new year. But 2020 was not ready for me, nor anyone for that matter. With the pandemic, my plans are still on hold, but I found ways to enjoyably pass the time.
One activity I got back into with the new year (besides work) has been bicycling. I have been biking a TON within the last few months. I have been biking everywhere with my go-to road bike (Nova) and my new gravel bike (Canzilla).
During the week prior to Cinco de Mayo, my Ultimate Frisbee friend, Kelly, reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in a bike ride to tacos along the Montour Trail. Social media alerted her of a new taco joint opening at the Tandem Connection Bicycle Shop on the Montour Trail called Carmen Taco Stand. (Note: This is a temporary spot until Carmen Taco settles on a permanent home.) Carmen Taco’s soft opening was Cinco de Mayo weekend. This would be a trial run for the new place.
So duh, I said I was in for bicycling and eating tacos! Only my two favorite activities on Earth. So Kelly, her husband Mike, and I met up on that Saturday pre Cinco de Mayo for a casual ride. After a few hours of bicycling and taking in the scenery, we worked up an appetite for tacos.
While socially distancing myself in line, I looked at the pop-up weekend menu. Carmen Tacos put my brain to work as I had to pick the filling and sauce for each taco. Fillings include beef barbacoa, chicken tinga, Mayan pork, Texas Chili Con Carne (medium-spicy ground beef and kidney beans), black bean and camote (sweet potato). Sauces and toppings include red chili sauce, tomatillo, spiced crema, queso fresco, hot melted queso, Tex Mex salsa, and a house hot sauce. All the tacos are presented on house-pressed nixtamal corn tortillas and garnished with lime wedges and pickles.
Nixtamal, in case you are wondering, involves the process of soaking corn in an alkaline solution so that it is easier to grind up and make into corn shells, which increases the nutritional content. Bring on the extra niacin and calcium!
After a long discussion with Kelly and talking through my order, I decided on one beef barbacoa taco with the classic green sauce, one chicken tinga taco with queso fresco, and one black bean and camote taco with Tex Mex salsa.
As a heads up, the tacos take about 25 minutes to prepare after ordering. So this would be a good time to get a few extra miles of walking or bicycling on the trail, or just socializing (from a distance) with friends.
The first taco I tried turned out to be my favorite out of the three. The house special slow-cooked shredded beef barbacoa was dripping with flavorful juice and it was exactly what I envisioned the beef barbacoa to taste like. The smoky Ancho Chili sauce raised its power to the next level. The salsa verde was a good choice to compliment the flavors. I would give this taco a 4 out of 5. I would recommend this taco to anyone.
Next up was the black bean and mashed sweet potato taco. The stewed beans’ soupy texture was absorbed into the shell and sweet potato mash. Since all of the sauces came on the side in cups, I was able to add some leftover salsa verde to this taco along with the designated Tex Mex salsa. Due to the composition, the shell fell apart quickly. Kelly noticed that if you keep the taco in the foil as much as possible, it helps keep the taco shell together. The beans had more flavor than I expected. I would have liked a topping with a little crunch. All in all, I would give this taco a 3 out of 5.
Last, I tried the chicken tinga taco. Since the chicken was in a tomato-based sauce, I ordered queso fresco as the topping here. I also added the last of my cup of salsa verde. I am glad I had some salsa verde remaining because I expected this taco to be a little more saucy. The cabbage was a nice touch to this taco. The doughy shell sort of took over most of the taste here. I would give this taco a 2 out of 5 on my taco scale.
One thing to note with the tacos at Carmen Taco Stand. I wish there was a little bit more filling in each taco. However, with the unique make of the shell, I do not think the shell could handle more weight.
After tacos, Kelly, Mike, and I biked back to our parking spaces and parted ways after a very pleasant Saturday afternoon of bicycling and eating tacos. I would definitely check out Carmen Taco Stand again and that delicious beef barbacoa taco.
Price: $3.50 per single taco, $9 for a taco plate of 3 tacos.