The newest food truck to take to the streets of C-U features basic American-friendly Mexican/Tex-Mex food. Fernando’s food truck serves up tacos, quesadillas, nachos, tortas, and burritos. In the summer time, the truck is parked at Neil and University in Downtown Champaign Tuesday through Friday, and makes an appearance at The Land Connection’s Tuesday Farmers’ Market.
I first noticed the truck in late spring, when it was parked on Springfield and First in Champaign. After searching the Internet for information and coming up short — the food truck has virtually no official Internet presence — I went for a drive looking for it. I found the truck parked on Springfield and First, but it was closed, despite the hours sign in the window indicating it should be open.
(After searching several different ways to find some official Internet presence, I found the food truck’s forgotten Facebook page. There’s not much in the way of information, but maybe if enough people like the page, the owners will update it regularly?)
Annoyed and hungry, I went about finding food elsewhere. The following Tuesday I noticed that the truck was at The Land Connection’s Downtown Champaign farmers’ market, so I asked the folks what was up with the schedule.
Me: “I tried to go to the truck on Monday, but it was closed.”
Fernando’s: “Yeah, we’re closed on Mondays.”
Me: “But it says right here on this sign that you’re open on Mondays.”
Fernando’s: “Yeah, they printed it wrong.”
This interaction further agitated me, because it’s 2016 and there is no reason a business can’t open a free Twitter or Facebook page with basic information about hours and location, and the dude could have simply crossed out the incorrect information on the sign instead of leaving it there. (For the record, the sign, as of last Tuesday, still has the incorrect hours and location information.) Also, the truck only accepts cash, so you need to plan accordingly.
Long story short: I managed to try a few things, including the steak quesadilla ($7), a chicken and a pork taco ($2 each), and the nachos with chorizo ($8).
Since I’ve already started this article as a Debbie Downer, I’ll tell you about my least favorite items: the tacos. At $2, they’re priced competitively with other tacos in town, which is a positive. But Fernando’s tacos lacked a flavor. I had both tacos Mexican style, and the onions and cilantro added a nice texture and bright flavor to the otherwise bland and soft taco. Both tacos were just okay, and that was, I suppose, my problem with them. They’d certainly do in a pinch, or after a night of drinking. But, I would rather eat Maize’s tacos because they are infinitely better, and similarly priced. Like most other places in town, Fernando’s tacos are available Mexican style (with onions and cilantro), or American style (lettuce, onion, tomato, and cheese).
On my first visit to the truck, I inquired about what I should order and the steak quesadilla was the suggestion. It was a good suggestion, ‘cause that quesadilla was tasty as hell. The meat to cheese ratio was perfect. The quesadilla was huge, and I think a fair size for $7; it could easily be shared by two people, or consumed by one hungry person. If you’re a meat eater, do yourself a favor and order this deliciousness. The steak quesadilla made it to my order on my second visit, too, and I’m pleased to report that it was just as delicious, so props to Fernando’s for consistency.
I heard some positive rumbling about the nachos, and they received a ringing endorsement from a four-year-old, which is serious business. I ordered them with chorizo. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened the box, but when I did, I’m pretty sure my response was, “Holy shit!”
Look at this:
That is a serious mound of nachos. Fernando’s may have failed me on the tacos, but good grief, all the things were on these nachos.
The nachos were loaded. Instead of shredded and melted cheese, there was a cheese sauce, but it was not that nasty neon pump crap you’ll find at the ballpark. This cheese sauce was pretty tasty, and very, very, generously poured over all the chips. On top of the pile of chips were tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, lettuce, onions, sour cream, and chorizo. There was not one dry chip in the bunch, which was pretty awesome. These are nachos you probably need to eat with a fork, or at least with clean hands (and plenty of napkins). At $8, it seems like a steal. It was definitely enough food to share with another person (and maybe a four year old).
My initial approach to Fernando’s was admittedly negative — I was super annoyed by the unpredictability of the truck’s hours and location. For the summer, at least, it seems plausible to find the truck in Downtown Champaign during lunch hours (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.-ish) and from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at the market. It might be parked in Downtown Champaign in the late night hours servicing the bar crowd. Once the semester begins in late August, I’m sure the truck will find some campus locations for parking, as the misprinted menu indicates it’s permanent location is at Springfield and First. After my initial annoyance, I was impressed by the generosity of some of the menu items. While I’ll seek out tacos elsewhere, I’m certain that I’ll be grabbing some more quesadillas and nachos at some point this summer. Maybe I’ll even share.
Fernando’s Food Truck is usually parked in Downtown Champaign during lunch hours, and at The Land Connection’s Farmers’ Market from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday evenings. You can call the truck at 217-418-1281. The truck only accepts cash.
All photos by Jessica Hammie.