Photos by Jena A. Butterfield
A focus on the humble street taco — and the allure of a family — draw loyal followers in southern Westchester.
At lunchtime in New Rochelle, customers stand around Tecas Tacos, a food truck churning out crave-worthy iterations of the street food staple on Fifth Avenue. They’re hungry for the flavor-soaked, crispy-edged corn tortillas being passed through the window of the almost 50-year-old, white-painted, former UPS truck stationed near the baseball field at Flower Park.
Addictive, meat-filled, tortillas come flecked with cilantro, onion, and beans, then garnished with radish and lime. Cheerful music matches the spirit of its owners and somehow helps ignite salivary glands.
For 22 years, Ruben Barajas and his family have held court in New Rochelle, intoxicating passersby with heady aromas and festive sounds and fostering a spirit of community.
Barajas (originally from the Mexican State of Jalisco) is legendary for his friendly personality and downright passion for his ancestral fare. For Barajas, hospitality is at the forefront: No customer leaves without a free taste of taco, like a warm tortilla folded over silky pork-laced beans.
This day, the megawatt smiles and easy manner of Barajas’ adult children, Lucy and Ruben, are evident as they run the lunch service. “My dad is, like,” Lucy stops to think of an adequate superlative. “Forget it,” she says, New York style. “Everybody loves him.”
The Barajas also own the snug Tecalitlan Restaurant (named after a city in Jalisco) on Union Avenue nearby. While the taco truck concentrates specifically on tacos and burritos, the restaurant menu is more extensive. Through the years, between the two establishments, Barajas’ brothers, Ramon and Roberto and wife, Maria, have also helped run things. The family affair reinforces the food’s authenticity as each member brings their own passion to the proverbial (and literal) table.
Thankfully, during the pandemic when the restaurant took a hit, “the truck, balanced it out,” says Lucy.
Hungry customers choose from fillings like birria (the oh so trendy, rich and tasty, stewed beef), steak (asada), tongue (lengua), chicken (pollo), pork (adovada), sweet pork (carnitas), and sausage (chorizo). The wafting redolence of the spice-laden grub at this New Rochelle institution can’t be denied.
Tecas Tacos’ serious food, positive energy, and catchy alliteration have stood the test of time. In that vein, we say, try a tip from us today and take the trek to Teca’s Tacos truck. (See what we did there?)
491 Fifth Ave, New Rochelle; 914.536.4000
123 Union Ave, New Rochelle; 914.235.4802