CHS Crow | The Mystery of the Volunteer Park Taco Truck Challenge

Fiesta 5K winner Tahoma Khalsa of Shoreline clocked in at 16:29. Faster than Marguerite could score a taco. (Image: Alex Crick for CHS)

Marguerite typically does the talking for the CHS Crow Q&As. She tried to take the Taco Challenge this weekend in Volunteer Park. All we’re going to say is somebody got tacos, MK — check out Alex’s pictures. — jseattle

Last week, my jaw dropped a little bit when I read the CHS article about the “The Fiesta 5K Ole and Taco Truck Challenge,” scheduled to take place in Volunteer Park in celebration of Cinco de Mayo (that’s “the sink of mayonnaise,” for all you non-Spanish speakers).

Usually, when the words “taco truck” are followed by “run,” the next words are “to the bathroom,” so the concept struck me as a bit … off.  Don’t get me wrong—I love a good Fun Run as much as the next person. And I think we can all agree that tacos are inherently better when they’re served out of a truck. However, I kind of feel like 5Ks and taco trucks are circles on a Venn Diagram that should never, ever overlap.

Nonetheless, the siren call of multiple food trucks drew me out to the event. Most of all, I wanted to find out what constituted the “challenge” in the titular Taco Truck Challenge. Even on the website of the event, they’re very cagey about this detail. Would the taco trucks face off in a Fast and the Furious-style street race? Or maybe an interpretive dance contest? A cage fight to the death?

By the time I arrived, several hundred people were clamoring around the six taco trucks parked on between the Asian Art Museum and the Conservatory. Based on the ridiculously long lines, you’d think these restaurants-on-wheels contained the very last tacos ever to be served on Earth. People were lined up in front of the trucks as if they were the last airplane (or the last taco truck, as it were) out of Tehran in1979. In one case, the line was literally more than 40 people deep. I stood in it for about fifteen minutes before realizing that the line wasn’t getting any shorter.

ABOVE:   After waiting so long, I hope they at least got some Radiohead tickets thrown in with their meal…

She also didn’t beat second place finisher Chris Tremonte of Seattle who clocked in at 16:30 (Image: Alex Crick for CHS)

It occurred to me that, in the time it would’ve taken for me to get a taco, I could—without hyperbole—run a 5K. And I wasn’t any closer to uncovering the secret behind the Taco Truck Challenge. Looking at the people in the standstill line, I wished for a moment that I’d ever wanted anything as much as these people wanted a taco, to wait in line for an hour for it.

I asked the guy in front of me, a 25-year-old waiter named Jordan, if he knew what the “challenge” was.

He thought for a second. “Not starving to death while you wait in line?”

“Maybe there’s a taco eating contest?” suggested Jordan’s buddy, a scruffy, affable fellow named Doug.

My face lit up, like an 11-year-old girl hearing that Justin Bieber was going to show up and ask her out on her very first date. For a moment, my hopes were high. If anything is more disgusting and riveting than drag-racing taco trucks, it’s the all-American sport of Competitive Eating. But alas, this was not to be.

As it turned out, the biggest challenge was to stay sane while listening to a staggeringly mediocre cover band sing slightly off-key renditions of various 80s pop songs. I did not rise to the challenge, and fled the park at a healthy clip, turning it into my own private version of a (running from a…) taco truck fun run.

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12 thoughts on “CHS Crow | The Mystery of the Volunteer Park Taco Truck Challenge

  1. Really, does the Molly Moons truck count in the “Taco Truck Challenge”? What about the falafel truck? Do the two trucks that were closed (I’m guessing because they ran out of food) count? I was there just before 5:00 for an event that was advertised to last until 9:00 and there were only two trucks serving tacos. I waited in line for about ten minutes (and I counted 85 people ahead of me) and then walked down to Broadway, got seated right away at La Puerta and had a margarita in three minutes. I would not recommend this event for next spring.

  2. Particularly laughable/painful was the line for the Rancho Bravo truck. I’ll bet someone could have easily run a few relays between Volunteer Park and their store on Pike to order a few rounds of tacos in the time it would have taken to get just to get around the bend in the massive queue gathered at their truck.

  3. I did the run and I hope the fiesta 5k becomes a tradition. It was fun and I liked being able to scoot right into the beer garden for the drink that was included with your race entry. Costumed runs are always a lot of fun. The lines were crazy for food. I waited about 5 minutes in the el camion line and then left when I realized it wasn’t moving. I got two tacos at the “pig and snout” or something similar to that name, and they were quick and delicious. This was probably at around 11:30 a.m. There were more than two taco trucks then, but yea, things were taking pretty long for some. I bounced before the live entertainment. This event has a lot of potential in my opinion and I’m sure it will attract more people next year if they do the run again. My only serious complaint has to do with the transparency of the donation element. I am curious how much of the money went to their charitable partner, and would like to know the name of the group that ran this event. Is it thrown solely by 107.7?

  4. I was there a little after one, skipped the trucks with long lines, and got a really good Cuban sandwich from Snout & Pork in under 5 minutes. They had been serving pork tacos but were out, and subbed in the sandwich. Seattleites just love to line up for stuff, often when there’s no real need.

  5. I did exactly the same thing. Taco trucks are plentiful enough– you can get tacos any day. But try to find a real, authentic Cuban sandwich in Seattle– there are about 2 or 3 places, tops. When I saw Snout and Co. with no line, I was shocked, and I jumped on it too. But I guess it’s no shock, when you can hardly get authentic Cuban sandwiches anywhere in Seattle, nobody lines up to get one, because they don’t know what they are. BTW, Snout & Company’s rendition of a Cuban sandwich is spot-on excellent.

  6. For starters, “Usually, when the words “taco truck” are followed by “run,” the next words are “to the bathroom,” har har har, all very droll and amusing I am sure.

    But I agree, it wasn’t as much fun as it should have been. At one PM there were eight trucks, four of which were actual taco wagons — lumpia is not tacos, OK?, cuban sandwiches are not tacos, burgers you get the idea .. and the lines for the actual taco wagons were too long to consider waiting in. And the 90s nostalgia cover band was blasting out a bad cover of “Fight For Your Right To Party”, so we decided to hit Puerta and had big food and didn’t need any dinner.

  7. As a frequent food truck customer, I don’t see the point in putting a whole bunch of trucks in one area as an event unto itself. The lines were insanely long even as trucks cut back their menus to speed service. Instead of waiting in the unexpectedly cool shade, I walked down to Tacos Chukis and had some good food in a building with lots of windows and real restrooms.

    As for the “Challenge,” the trucks I saw had little signs in their windows telling you to text a vote in for that truck. I don’t know what the top vote-getter received.

  8. Well, I was pretty disappointed to find only a handful of trucks available to choose from and given the amount of people there, it just didn’t add up. I felt bad for the company I brought with me and found myself thanking them for waiting with me over and over and over and over as well as guaranteeing them that the food would be GREAT and well worth it. Well, it hardly was. I think we were more happy about simply eating than what it was we were eating. I mean, after waiting a short two hours in line for tacos wasn’t worth the stomach flu my fiance and best friend had to nurse the next day. I wish there was a way to have a poll set up to see if there were any others with feverish symptoms late that night or the following. I won’t give up the name of the only taco truck we ate at that day because I will still enjoy an occasional burrito or taco from them so don’t ask. Hopefully it was just something in the water.
    On a more positive note, I think the whole idea of this event is, fun and worth another shot. Maybe if this event makes it to it’s tenth annual we will have something to look forward to.

  9. Beyond the taco truck issues, I was surprised at the size of the fenced off beer garden/”music” area and fee to enter it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fee charged to enter anyplace in the park.