By Kayla Reeves
Cartoon pandas are usually pictured with a bamboo stalk, but Panda Joe Tacos has chosen a sombrero as its mascot’s prop.
The taco vendor at 900 S. 18th St., which has recently become its permanent location, draws customers in with the cute Mexican panda bear painted on its truck.
Panda Joe has only been in business for one year, but it has begun to make a name for itself as a quick, inexpensive and authentic Mexican food vendor.
As soon as I stepped out of my car at the bright blue taco truck, I could smell the spices. It smelled more like a real Mexican restaurant than a Taco Bell, which is always encouraging.
I stood under the tin roof in their small outdoor seating area and assessed the menu, some of which I could not understand. A friendly woman recommended a breakfast burrito. I got one with bacon and egg, and was surprised by the price of only $2.
After waiting less than five minutes, the woman at the window handed me a brown paper bag with a foil-wrapped burrito inside, along with a few different sauces in little plastic cups and half of a lime to squeeze over my breakfast.
It tasted fresh, like it had just been cooked, and was not greasy or soggy. The sauces were nice too: one orange Tabasco-like spicy sauce and one tangy green.
Lunch at Panda Joe was just as pleasant. They have a menu full of taco, burrito and quesadilla choices, and some things I had never heard of like sopes, tortas-cubanas and huaraches.
All of those can be served with beans and rice, and they have add-ons like vegetables and cheese for a quarter extra. They also have daily “panda specials” that make everything even less expensive.
I went on a Thursday, so all tacos were one dollar each. I ordered a fajita taco and a chicken taco, both on flour tortillas with cilantro and onions.
Again, the woman included a lime and two sauces. The tacos were surprisingly flavorful for having so few ingredients. The meat was seasoned perfectly: not too overpowering, but not bland. With my Diet Coke added, that meal was $3.
Overall, I would say Panda Joe Tacos is much more authentic and reasonably priced than many taco trucks, and it was an enjoyable experience. I got two separate meals for $5 total, and was satisfied with both of them.
The only negative detail is that they only take cash payments, but I think that is overlookable.
It may not be a gourmet meal, but if you want something fast and tasty, it is a good choice.