Last Thanksgiving weekend we decided to take a family trip to Northern California. As we drove, I started to notice a trend I wasn’t expecting: gas station tacos. From Bakersfield through Fresno, there were at least five gas stations serving street tacos either in the station or with a taco truck parked in the lot. I had finally found the mecca I had been seeking, sadly it’s near 2 hours north of where I live.
My first stop in this land of fuel and tortillas was a good one. Correction. A great one.
Inside a new Chevron gas station is a local chain Mexican restaurant called Arsenio’s. They have several locations around Fresno and Clovis plus a couple other close by towns. The menu is quite extensive with plenty of options including tostadas, burritos, tortas, tacos, nachos, and even enchiladas. The tacos come in a variety of ways including corn, flour, and rolled up deep fried. Meat choices are beef, chicken, ground beef, lengua, al pastor, and fish. Prices range from 99 cents for the beef taco to $2.30-$2.75 for everything else.
Fortunately the three tacos I ordered, priced at a steep $2.75 each, were huge. These are not your taco stand tacos on small corn tortillas. They are large almost equivalent to 3 street tacos which now causes me to reflect how I basically ate 9 tacos with 5 hours left to drive. My poor family.
Like everywhere in California I did have to specify no pico de gallo and no guacamole. I just wanted the tacos with chopped onions and cilantro. It also came with some green and red hot sauce and a couple limes. Perfect.
The asada I tried first was lean and perfectly cooked. It had good flavor and was not chewy or overdone. It was a pleasant surprise and I couldn’t wait to see how the next two tacos would compare.
Amazing. The carnitas was simply amazing. This is what I love about gas station tacos. People expect nothing from gas station food, because most gas station food is microwavable breakfast sandwiches, cardboard pizza, or those things they call hotdogs. Yet, here I am in the middle of nowhere in central California eating a cartinas taco that will beat most high-end Mexican restaurants. The pork is not dry yet it still has chunks of outer crust and just a bit of fat to make the world perfect for just a couple minutes as I pour on some more salsa verde and squeeze a bit more lime juice to finish a great carnitas taco.
I often save the al pastor for last, because it’s usually my favorite but with the carnitas being so good I was ready for a little disappointment. Thankfully the al pastor was solid. It wasn’t over sauced, it had a good sweet and slightly spicy flavor I have come to love about al pastor. It wasn’t the best al pastor I’ve had; however, it was definitely in the top 10.
Let me apologize right now for this. Arsenio’s in Tulare, California deserves an Arsenio Hall Fist Pump.
Gas Station: Chevron
Address: 2959 N. M Street, Tulare, CA 93724