We roll up to Great Storm Brewing to sample a new food truck, Sapo Guapo Tacos — translated, "Handsome Toad" — and my dining companion remarks that the children's-entertainment-bright 1976 RV we see will serve food that's either totally legit or awful. After spending the evening gorging ourselves on tacos, green chile and more, we conclude with relief that the RV's appearance heralds legitimacy over child's play.
Nester and Melissa Montoya operate this colorful food truck, from which they serve New Mexican standards. Nester isn't a formally trained chef — all of his chops come from a love of cooking for family and friends. He and Melissa have owned a few businesses in the past, including a sheet metal company, but this is their first foray into cooking professionally.
"[We started the truck out of] the love of serving food to others," he says. "Just that in itself."
Springs native Nester and Texas transplant Melissa get their recipes from Nester's mother and grandmother, both of whom hail from Socorro, in rural central New Mexico. Despite being roughly 100 miles from pepper-mecca Hatch, they prefer Pueblo chilies, so that's what Nester cooks with.
Having tasted the Montoyas' green chile, whatever my own pro-Hatch bias, I can't argue with the results. Their recipe holds texturally thin, powerfully garlicky and pork-steak meaty, with a substantial but not overwhelming burn. Buy an extra bowl or two to freeze for your next head cold.
Naturally, we try it on the smothered stuffed sopapilla. It's more of a fried-dough taco than a sopapilla, full of over-salted beef, topped with lettuce, tomato cubes, sour cream and cilantro. Our combo comes with overcooked rice and can-quality refried beans. We aren't exactly overjoyed. Even an admittedly luxurious fried egg, 50 cents extra, can only do so much.
Only slightly better, the $4 taco burger arrives, a halved fast-food cheeseburger in a fresh-fried corn tortilla, with veg and house chile piquin as salsa. It's authentic New Mexican junk food, that's definitely true, and a cheap drunk-bite besides.
But, fortunately, these two stand as the low points — and we'd still order them over Taco Bell, let's be real here. But that chile fares better in green chile cheese fries, a gut bomb made heavenly with a fried egg.
The strongest dishes, the reasons we wouldn't hesitate to beat a path to whatever brewery the Montoyas have camped out in front of, are the carne enchilada tacos and the Korean BBQ tacos. The former, available with equally awesome chicken or pork, get a 24-hour marinade bath in garlicky red chile, made with New Mexico-grown peppers. With a little cotija cheese, they're no-additional-qualifiers-needed awesome.
Also over the course of 24 hours, Nester's zingy Korean BBQ marinade does delightful savory things to ribeye — but don't expect bulgogi sweetness. The tacos come with cabbage, chili garlic aioli and a little kimchi.
Moving onto dessert, cake and caramel-stuffed mini churros come from Nester's sister, Vicki Montoya, who runs a cake business. It's a shame the churros aren't fresh and hot — they're fine sugar-bombs, but that freshness would make a world of difference.
It's true that this Toad has a few warts, but we're pleased with a lot of what the Montoyas are offering. For every misstep, there's something that beckons diners to return for another handsome meal.