For the past couple of weeks, a white truck with green and red stripes inscribed “El Danzante on Wheels: A Taste of Mexico” has been parked at Perry’s Towing Service every evening, from five to eleven. It’s a particularly welcome sight to the fans of El Danzante, a Mexican restaurant on Broadway that closed this year, after 11 years in business. Owner Rufino Juarez is now serving his famous Mexican specialties from the truck, fronted by several tables shaded by brightly colored umbrellas, transforming the pavement into an al fresco dining area.
The festive truck with its growling generator and accompanying tables, each with a decorative salt holder shaped like an animal, make you feel like you’re at Coney Island, if only there was a view of the sea. Novelty aside, the real reason to stop by is for the fresh, inspired food, which includes soft and hard tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tamales, fajitas, and taquitos (Mexican-style beef with red peppers, rice, red beans, red sauce and guacamole). Three tacos are just $5, while the taquitos is $8. Juarez cooks it all from scratch on the grill in the truck, which is accompanied by a refrigerated unit stocked with soda, juice and water. He also serves fish and chips, burgers, and hot dogs.
The taquitos is a full meal, but then so are the tacos, with a choice of chicken, beef, beans, cheese or pastor (marinated crispy pork, which I highly recommend). The soft tacos are warmed almost to the point of crispiness, and the small chunks of meat are tossed with chopped onion, cilantro, and tiny pieces of pineapple, topped with a guacamole that’s wonderfully redolent of fresh avocado and a delicately flavored red sauce. Two wedges of lime and a few radish slices complete the dish. All the ingredients are extremely fresh. It’s street food in the best tradition, and it’s available right on Broadway—making the auto-shop parking lot suddenly an appealing place to linger.
A note on Juarez’s culinary approach: he cooks in a variety of Mexican styles, in order to appeal to the diverse population of Mexicans in Kingston: mole poblano, from Pueblo; oven-roasted pork, which is marinated for a few days and fried in a big pan, from Michoacan; and tlayuda, corn tortillas served with sliced steak or chorizo topped with black bean paste, string cheese, guacamole, red sauce, lettuce and tomatoes, from his native Oaxaca.
Juarez moved to Kingston 20 years ago from Millbrook, after his wife started helping out at his brother’s grocery store on Elmendorf Street. He had been cooking in Hyde Park, but in 2000 transferred his culinary talents to Kingston, opening El Danzante. Juarez acknowledged his customers’ disappointment since the place has been closed. “They keep calling me asking, ‘we need your tacos. There’s none that compare,’” he said, noting that the truck has filled that gap.
Juarez planned to relocate in the former Midtown Chophouse, in a building he owns, and has been renovating the space for four years, but the depressed economy and some remaining loose ends have delayed the opening. In the meantime, he and his wife have been faithfully running a Mexican grocery store, called Abril’s Boutique Plus, at 8 Van Buren Street—just around the corner from Perry’s. Its colorful lights brighten up an otherwise grim stretch of street after dusk. Juarez’ exceptionally friendly children, all of whom attend Kingston schools, help out, accompanied by their white puppy.
“When I started out, the street was terrible,” said Juarez. “It was totally destroyed. I put in my hands, money and time.” Now, with the help of Perry’s, he’s turned part of Broadway into a friendly outdoor eating spot, with plans to extend his season into the fall. So the next time you’re driving down Broadway at night, be sure to stop by and sample some extraordinarily good Mexican food.