On the west side of Alameda, the East Bay island suburb, fans of Mexican food have a scant handful of options: There’s a single taqueria (Calafia), one sit-down restaurant (Otaez), and, of course, a Chipotle. That’s all. But what if you want a more vibrant street food experience? Up until this past December, you would have been out of luck.
Now, however, the East Bay’s celebrated taco truck scene has finally landed in Alameda with the arrival of a new superhero-themed truck that’s parked three days a week on the site of the former Naval Air Station. Located at 800 West Tower Avenue just behind Bladium Sports and Fitness Club, Tacos Super Monilla is the first taco truck to establish a regular presence on the island beyond an occasional pop-up. Even better, the truck’s Mexico City-style tacos are really, really good.
For owners Ramon and Silvia Torres, both originally from Mexico City, opening a food truck on the West End of Alameda just made sense — not only because of the area’s lack of Mexican food, but also because they wanted to give to branch out from the small catering business their family has been running in Oakland for about 20 years.
Ramon has been in the food industry for 50 years going back to his days as a young taquero in Mexico City. In 2000, he started his catering company, Tacos Torres, which developed a fervent following for its taquizas, or private taco parties, and its warm hospitality. Torres himself always made a big impression — for his super-fast style of chopping away at the meats on the meat block, and for the way he would drop salsa and cilantro on the tacos with a Salt Bae-like hand flourish.
You might say that Torres is something of a taco superhero, which helps explain the truck’s design: It’s painted a bright shade of blue with a large graphic of Ramon dressed as a superhero holding a taco. For the last five years, the couple’s daughter, Miriam Torres, has been working alongside her parents to evolve every detail behind the Tacos Monilla food truck — everything from the design to the website (which is still in the works) to an Instagram page where Miriam documents not just the food, but also her father behind grill. The truck is a full family affair: The husband and wife split the responsibilities of prep work and cooking while five adult siblings take turns attending to the truck, with Miriam coordinating all the logistics.
The menu features all of the typical meats: carne asada, grilled chicken, and al pastor — but, notably, Tacos Super Monilla is the only spot in Alameda, and one of only a handful in the East Bay, that cooks its al pastor on the kind of trompo, or vertical spit, found in taquerias in Mexico City. For slightly more adventurous eaters, there’s also chorizo, buche (pork stomach), tripa (beef tripe), tongue, and one of the best versions of suadero (a beef cut that resembles chopped steak) around.
The Torreses are also bringing a handful of regional dishes from their hometown to the West End, even beyond their use of the trompo. There’s a selection of tortas, the overstuffed sandwiches that are a staple in Mexico City and other southern states like Puebla and Morelos. They also serve a regional taco called campechano, a popular street taco found in Mexico City that combines several meats — at Tacos Super Monilla, it’s made with suadero and chorizo.
The menu also features versions of American foods like a “Mexican burger,” a Torres family recipe that comes with ham, grilled pineapple, and two different cheeses. Steak fries (aka carne asada fries) come with a generous serving of meat, sliced avocado, cheese, and sour cream. There’s also a separate kids’ menu that includes a simple cheeseburger served in a to-go container in the shape of a car. That makes sense, given the truck’s location behind Bladium, a popular destination for kids’ birthday parties and soccer camps.
It all makes for a welcome addition to Alameda Point, the site of the former Naval Air Station, where spots like Admiral Maltings, Rock Wall Wine Company, and Almanac Barrel House and Taproom host a rotating selection of food trucks. But until Super Monilla set up shop, there wasn’t really a fixed spot where you could always grab some tacos.
The family’s plan for 2020 includes expanding their schedule to six days a week, splitting their time between Alameda and Oakland. And trend-spotters should take note: On Sundays, the truck has started serving quesabirrias, the crispy dipped tacos that have recently taken over the Bay. They’ll also begin selling beef birria, as a separate dish, in the coming weeks.
Tacos Super Monilla is open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10:30 p.m., and Mondays from 6 to 11 p.m.