Cucina Zapata: One food truck to rule them all
You know how everyone has a pizza place or a sandwich shop that they swear is the best ever? That applies to food trucks as well. Go up to any self-proclaimed foodie in the city and they'll happily tell you why their halal cart has the greatest falafel or how the taco truck on Girard and Frankford makes the best drunk snacks. It's a heated topic: friends have been lost and families destroyed by arguments over food truck supremacy (I'm only guessing here).
Well, now I'm going to throw my hat into the ring. Through much trial and error, I've found my personal favorite Philly food truck. Hope you can make it to Drexel's campus during lunch, because the best food truck in the city is Cucina Zapata, which sits in food truck alley on 31st and Ludlow.
Cucina Zapata is a Drexel favorite, if the massive lines that form every day for lunch are any indication. It's not hard to guess why: Cucina Zapata offers massive portions of their Thai-Mexican fusion at insanely low prices. I can get a lackluster salad from 30th Street Station for $9 or a massive burrito here for $6? Not exactly a hard decision.
I originally came to Cucina Zapata at the behest of my boyfriend, a Drexel grad who talks about their Cap'n Crunch-encrusted fish burritos the way other people talk about their first-born child. I've been exclusive with that burrito, though, so I knew that to be able to truly call Cucina my favorite food truck I needed to taste more dishes. Let no one say that I don't take my research seriously.
I decided on three meals: a Thai short rib taco (one for $3, two for $6 or three for $8), the chicken katsu platter ($5) and, because I'm apparently incapable of going to Cucina without ordering it, the Cap'n Crunch tilapia burrito ($6). I rounded it off with a Thai tea and a Thai coffee ($2 each).
I'll admit that the Thai short rib taco wasn't my favorite, through no real fault of its own: the taco is massive, stuffed with plenty of short rib, avocado, cabbage and pico de gallo and topped with hot sauce and their "green sauce" (maybe a cilantro sauce? That's just a guess). The green sauce wasn't for me, and the entire thing was maybe a little too sweet for my taste, but my boyfriend really liked it, so this is likely just a personal thing.
The chicken katsu, however, is giving the burrito some serious competition for my favorite dish. Strips of lightly fried chicken sit atop a mound of rice and cabbage, topped with avocado, pico, spicy mayo, hot sauce and a fried egg, which I passed on. The portion is massive but it never feels overly heavy or greasy, and it packs the right amount of heat. Tip: if they ask you if you want your food "spicy," the answer is always yes.
And now, of course, comes my favorite: the burrito. A giant piece of tilapia coated in Cap'n Crunch and then fried, surrounded by cabbage, avocado and a ton of spicy mayo and wrapped in a flour tortilla, this thing is massive. Like, "I need to take a break halfway through to catch my breath" massive. But oh, so worth it. Though it's been deep fried, the fish isn't greasy and remains nice and flaky. Don't let the Cap'n Crunch scare you off; it doesn't add any sweetness, and the burrito is pleasantly spicy. Oh, and did I mention that it's only $6?
Cucina Zapata gets extremely crowded during lunch, closes at 6 and isn't open on weekends, so it may take a little planning to check it out. There's also a good chance they'll run out of specials later in the day. But it's absolutely worth the trip to Drexel. Plus, the guys who run it are extremely nice, which is a bonus. Follow them on Twitter @Cucina_Zapata to find out specials and any changes to their normal schedule.