Smile Politely

Quality quesadillas and more at Los Paisas, a mobile extension of the red-roofed Mexican grocery in Champaign

The red truck for Los Paisas food truck on Cunningham Avenue in Champaign. The truck has a black menu on the outside in addition to red, white, and blue pendant flags on banners connected to the umbrella tables. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

There is a lot of Mexican cuisine in Champaign-Urbana. Look, I’m not mad about it. I love Mexican food especially tacos. I pray that I will never tire of eating tacos, amen.

The newest taco truck rolling onto the Champaign-Urbana food truck scene is Los Paisas, a red food truck by the red-roofed Mexican grocery on Prospect Avenue with the same name. Parked on Cunningham Avenue where Taco Motorizado parked before it closed, the truck serves tacos, burritos, tortas, and dinner plates.

A steak torta sits in front of the Los Paisas food truck on Cunningham Avenue in Urbana. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

To start, I ordered a torta asada ($9), which was a steak torta with refried beans, cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, onion, avocado slices, pickled jalapeños, and mayo on a lightly toasted bun. The sandwich was mostly chopped steak, which luckily was delicious. With a nice chargrill, the steak’s beefy flavor dominated the sandwich, so that’s probably the same for whatever protein’s picked. The toppings were good, and I really liked the bean spread. The avocado and mayo added a double dose of creaminess, balancing subtle heat from the hot sauce and jalapeños. Not all that messy, it was a good steak sando to-go.

Three ground beef tacos from Los Paisas taco truck has a small cup of red salsa. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

My husband had three ground beef tacos ($7.50), Mexican style with cilantro and onions on double corn tortillas. The tacos were not all that special, just standard ground beef tacos. They were fine, but adding the salsa jazzed it up. Because the dark red hot sauce had seeds and flecks of pepper, it was super spicy and a little went a long way!

This truck’s tacos cost $2.50 each, and protein choices at the truck are plentiful. Diners can choose shredded chicken, grilled chicken, steak, ground beef, chorizo, campechano (steak and chorizo), pastor, and (50-cent more expensive) upgrade options of lengua, tripa, carnitas, and camaron (shrimp).

On my next visit, I ordered a watermelon drink, fajita quesadilla, birria tacos, and a chicken dinner for my kid.

A watermelon water is in a large white styrofoam cup with ice and a disposable plastic straw. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Move over Fanta, Faygo, Coke, Pepsi, and any other food truck drink, agua fresca is the tops, and the ones from this truck are banging. This agua de sandía ($4) was so awesome. Ice cold and chock full of melon sweetness, the refreshing drink tasted like eating watermelon. Complete with some pulp, the drink seriously tasted like the center bite of a watermelon slice: a burst of super sweet fruitiness with every sip. And the size was enormous.

Five birria tacos with cilantro and white onion are on a white parchment paper on top of tin foil. There is a white styrofoam cup of consume behind the tacos. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Birria tacos aren’t on the menu on many C-U food trucks, so we also had to try the birria tacos. Birria is a Los Paisas truck specialty in addition to quesabirria. We ordered five birria tacos ($15) — stop judging! With a side of consume, the tacos came with onions, cilantro, and shredded beef on warm corn tortillas. The meat had a delicious ancho chile flavor, and because of the slow-cooking, the beef had a very tender texture. By iteself, it was yummy, but when dunked, the taco tasted even more delicious. The birria absorbed all the wonderful flavors of the herby broth, and even soaked with consume, the soft corn tortillas held up. Certainly, we had no regrets about the number of birria we consumed.

In a white takeout container, there is a large quesadilla chopped into four pieces. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

So the review wasn’t too taco-centered, I ordered the fajita quesadilla ($11). This quesadilla had cheese, chopped steak, grilled onions, and green bell peppers inside blistered flour tortillas, sliced into four pieces. Shockingly, this was my favorite dish from the truck. The ratio of steak to onions to peppers to cheese was pretty much equal; each bite had marinated steak encased in gooey cheese with tender-crisp fajita veggies. But what was the best was how good the tortilla was; how good could a flour tortilla really be? Super good, turns out. That’s what us hungry people of Champaign-Urbana get when a small grocery with quality products opens a truck.

For the tortilla alone, you must try a quesadilla at Los Paisas food truck. And if you really love cheese, the truck will add cheese on top of your cheesy quesadilla for an additional $1.50.

In a takeout container, there is chopped chicken with queso on top of Mexican rice from Los Paisas food truck. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Lastly, for my kid, I ordered Los Paisas food truck’s pancho dinner ($10), which is what some restaurants call chicken on the beach. For $10, it was an enormous portion — way more than my child could eat, and he loves this dish. As I have sampled many a chicken-and-queso over rice dish from my son’s plate across town, none have tasted this good. The chicken just tasted super fresh, and the rustic cuts were flavorful and juicy with a little char. Beneath the yummy chicken, the bed of rice was humongous, easily two or three cups of rice, and all of it doused in drippy, hot queso with minced onion and pepper. Though it was a basic dish of just chicken and rice with cheese sauce, it was quality.

The menu of Los Paisas food truck. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Take a look at the truck’s full menu. There’s all the usual favorites: tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and tortas, but Los Paisas food truck also has dinner plates of chimichanga, fajitas, and rice topped with cheese sauce and a choice of protein. Los Paisas also has nacho steak fries, which one of my Instagram followers said was their go-to from this truck, and it’s definitely on my list of things to try the next time I go back.

If you’re on Cunningham Avenue on that side of Five Points in Urbana, this red food truck by the red-roofed Mexican grocery is worth trying. Park in the little lot in front of the Moda Mi Bello Angel clothing store, or if you can’t make it out, Los Paisas food truck does offer delivery (call 217-418-7715).

Los Paisas food truck
607 N Cunningham Ave
Su-Th 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F+Sa 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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