You can’t cruise through Santa Fe without running into a food truck. From downtown to the city’s Southside and beyond, colorful trucks that exude appetizing smells are everywhere—tucked into mini-malls, hidden on side streets, or wedged into a busy downtown parking lot. 

While a flourishing food truck scene is no big surprise in a small city with a giant culinary reputation, the diversity of cuisines cooked up in these mobile kitchens is impressive. In that popular downtown parking lot, for instance—located across the street from the Roundhouse—people line up for spicy Thai, rustic Italian, killer tacos, finger-licking barbecue, and bespoke donuts. At the city’s other end, on the Southside’s Airport Road, at least a dozen food trucks serve tortas, tacos, and all kinds of other Mexican and Central American street foods. 

With so many mouthwatering choices, you could spend all summer tasting your way from truck to truck and not have the same thing twice. Here are three fantastic restaurants on wheels, each celebrated for unique and delicious fare, crafted with a reverence for tradition and a passion for flavor. 

Rolling Sushi 

We begin our feast of flavors in a car wash parking lot on Cerrillos Road, where Jesushi has won the hearts of serious sushi lovers as well as novices. Chef-owner Jesus Mendoza is a skilled sushi chef, having learned the art from Japanese and Korean masters while working at Osaka (now shuttered) and Kai Sushi in Santa Fe, and also at Jo-Ji’s in Española. When COVID-19 closed restaurants, Mendoza went into high gear, turning a truck that had been stowed in his yard into a food truck that’s now been running for three years. Originally from Mexico, Mendoza runs the only sushi food truck in Santa Fe, getting the bulk of his seafood from Japan and California. “People always get scared of eating sushi in the desert,” he says. He’s happy when his sushi changes their minds.

You can taste the freshness of the yellowtail, salmon, eel, and other seafood that Mendoza preps and serves on the same day. I can vouch for the wow factor of his New Mexico Roll. Each bite bursts with flavor from the crab mix, avocado, cucumber, and green chile tempura, all topped with spicy mayo and eel sauce. For a food truck, Mendoza’s menu is admirably large, offering six nigiri options, including freshwater eel (unagi), with its refreshing umami flavor, along with a chirashi bowl featuring the chef’s choice of fish with sprouts, daikon, and pickled carrots and burdock root (yamagobo). He’s also curated a cool selection of beverages, such as ramune, a popular Japanese soda known as marble soda because of the glass marble that playfully clatters around as it seals the bottle’s mouth.

2217 Cerrillos, in Eclipse Window Tinting parking lot, 505-204-5330

Salvadorean Specialties

Ditch the endless traffic of Cerrillos Road for slower-paced Llano Street, where a small blue truck serves up big flavors. Parked in an empty lot across from St. Michael’s Village West, La Loncherita Salvadoreña prepares traditional pupusas that are music to your mouth. A popular Central American street food, pupusas are made in different ways from country to country. In El Salvador, the pupusa is so prominent that the second Sunday of every November has been declared Día Nacional de la Pupusa, or National Pupusa Day. Once you taste this delightful griddled cake, you’ll understand its allure.

Vilma Peraza and her husband, Jose Cruz, both from El Salvador, opened La Loncherita (the lunchbox) in 2015 and have since introduced countless patrons to their national dish. They make their dough with traditional masa de maíz or with rice masa, and offer nearly a dozen filling options. I tried #4, a combo of cheese and El Salvador’s beloved chicharrón—made not from pork rinds but chopped pork that is boiled, then fried. The dish is a dynamic balance of sweet and savory, and the pork’s seasoning—a secret family recipe Peraza inherited from her grandmother—was a delightful discovery. I also ordered #2 because I wanted to try loroco, an edible flower bud grown in Mexico and Central America. Paired with cheese, this pupusa was enticingly sweet but not overly so. Each pupusa is served with a side of tangy curtido (lightly pickled cabbage slaw) and a choice of mild or hot salsa. Loroco isn’t the only option for vegetarians: they also offer mushroom or green chile with cheese. “People love our pupusas because there’s nothing else like them in all of Santa Fe,” Cruz says. Do they have a bestseller? “All of them,” he says with a grin.

1741 Llano, 505-316-2228

Bodacious Burgers

You have to know where to look to find one of Santa Fe’s first food trucks. Tucked away in a garden setting behind The Brakeroom, a Santa Fe Brewing Company taproom in downtown Santa Fe, Bang Bite Filling Station serves up great food that’s good for your soul. The burgers, made with Certified Angus Beef and a dazzling array of toppings, will knock your socks off. The O.M.G., for instance, is a pile-on of pulled pork, beef burger, green chile barbecue sauce, and chipotle mayo. I recently devoured the Ooh Papi, a sublime combo of sharp cheddar, crispy bacon, maple-bacon jam, and garlic mayo layered on top of my perfectly cooked-to-medium burger. I came back because I had to try a legendary special, the Diablo Style Oyster Po’Boy. After savoring this sammie of Louisiana oysters, crisply fried and stacked with tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and pickled habanero remoulade, I can’t wait to go back and have it again. 

The genius behind Bang Bite is Enrique Guerrero, who moved to Santa Fe from the Bay Area in 1999 to be La Casa Sena’s executive chef. After earning numerous accolades as he worked in upscale restaurants around the city, Guerrero switched tracks, leaving behind the daily demands of restaurant work for the freedom of running his own food truck. He opened Bang Bite in 2013, inspired by the humble street food he’d tasted at food trucks in cities around the country, and in 2019, the Food Network named Bang Bite one of the best food trucks in America.

“For me it was about burgers,” Guerrero says. “I love hamburgers. We try to do very simple recipes. It’s about the combinations, and I believe the combinations came from years and years of working in fine dining.”

These three trucks will whet your appetite for a wide world of flavors out on the streets, not just in Santa Fe but across New Mexico. The only thing you need to bring is your appetite.

501 Galisteo, 505-469-2345

Lynn Cline

Lynn Cline is the award-winning author of The Maverick Cookbook: Iconic Recipes and Tales From New Mexico. She’s written for Bon Appétit, the New York TimesNew Mexico Magazine, and many other publications. She also hosts Cline’s Corner, a weekly talk show on public radio’s KSFR 101.1 FM.