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Mobile taco cart El Sancho builds handmade home at Pakit

El Sancho taco shack in its new location at Pakit.

Bri Brey

El Sancho taco shack in its new location at Pakit.

Finding El Sancho in the labyrinth of junk at Pakit Liquidators is a treasure hunt. But following the beacon of the cart's mustached mascot—he resembles a hipster Pacman in a cycling cap—and the wafting scent of roasting meats and spicy salsas, through the cast iron gate, past the parking lot coffee hut, and into what looks like a post-apocalyptic bomb shelter, is well worth the search. The shack is home to some of the best tacos on the east side of Third Street.

The trick rigged door magically opens to reveal the found object-constructed shack housing the bike-based kitchen and a small eating area with a neon-rainbow sign made from pieces of scrap and adorned with lights that clearly reads, "tacos."

And that's what is served by the veteran bike/cart that looks perfectly at home at the junk yard, mostly because it was constructed four years ago by Joel Cordes with the help of Pat and Matt Korish, the owners of Pakit.

Joined by Jon Barvels last year, Cordes brought El Sancho out of its temporary retirement to serve at summer events, and set up full time at Pakit following a weekend at the Roots Festival in September. Using more materials from the scrap yard, they put together a new home, the taco shack.

"Pakit is a great resource for a project like this. You need a light fixture? Oh, here's a sweet one! Should we have a heat source? Of course, there's a perfect wood stove we can use!" explained Barvels. "The list goes on from art on the walls to the 12-foot chimney in our outside lounge area."

To contrast the extremely rare experience of dining in a junkyard, are the authentic offerings of the shack—tacos, no frills—straight off the streets of Mexico. Cordes said the idea was to imitate the "funky little" street-style carts and delicious food he had sampled in his world travels, using high quality ingredients and keeping prices low (two tacos for $5 or three for $7).

The traditional tacos—no florescent cheddar cheese or dollop of overwhelming sour cream—are mouthwatering. The seven filling options are topped with lettuce and smooth salsa, green and red, sprinkled with cotija cheese and served on fried corn tortillas that the chefs dry like cotton sheets from a line running over the cart.

I tried the beef barbacoa, which was peppery and rich, as well as the spicy chipotle chicken and their signature pork carnitas—all of which I could have had seconds, maybe thirds.

With other filling options—include chorizo, lengua (yup, cow tongue) and a vegetarian spicy mushroom—the cart's daily specials (tamales the day I dined), and a 100 percent gluten-free menu, the partners have a business plan that is working. The innovative location is only adding to the draw of the simplistic menu.

"Pakit is an exciting place to be as it is really evolving into something cool," said Cordes, referring to the recent uptick in concerts and events at the junkyard, for which El Sancho stays open late.

El Sancho

At Pakit Liquidators, 903 SE Armour Rd. Tuesday-Friday, 11 am-3 pm.

At Crux Fermentation Project, 50 SW Division St. Monday, 4 pm-9 pm.

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