Actual re-enactment of my thought process when a food truck rolls into the parking lot of a bar: Solid. I don’t even have to leave the land of liquid dinner to attain actual sustenance tonight. Lucky for us, a quirky taco business saw the opportunity to be a mobile eatery exclusively serving bar patrons, but instead it said, “I’ll raise you.” The minds behind this funky food stand took things a step further when they bypassed the idea of a portable kitchen and equipped neighborhood bar Satellite with its very own walk-up window.
Just down the street from the bustling riverfront where bars, restaurants and locals run wild is a community called South Front. When the rumors started to spread the hub was where famed chef and television personality Vivian Howard chose to land her future pizzeria, Benny’s Big Time Pizza (opening this month), the area’s attractiveness soared. Satellite, at the center of South Front’s action, is known for being the best divey haven of this hood, and the hipster-log-cabin-inspired bar has frequently hosted a handful of food trucks. But now—as opposed to scrambling on social media to see who will appear—the opened Block Taco on the side of the bar, to satisfy all of our savory (and salsa) needs.
What goes better with tortillas than a side of golf? OK, that doesn’t make much sense, but the point is, patrons can noodle around on Block Taco’s putting green while waiting for their nachos to arrive. The quirky feature fits quite well with the restaurant’s colorful personality, which is easily characterized by a retro, neon-lit Toyota Corolla loaded with stickers and garnished with a donkey in a sombrero. I mean, nondrinkers don’t even have to pop a bottle at Satellite; Block Taco offers a refreshingly tart limemade and a creamy almond-based Horchata.
While mall Mexican and Southwestern-ish grill chains certainly have their place, the Wilmington culinary scene has recently stepped up their taco game. As far as I’m concerned, Block Taco fits right in. Thanks to items like coffee and cinnamon-rubbed pork shoulder and grilled green beans with house-made cojita cheese, the straightforward, but unique lineup is a knockout. Even the super reasonable prices (most handhelds are under $5) elevate the experience. Also, the tacos are small, so it’s easy to sample several. That being said, I felt it necessary to try everything on the menu.
The carnitas exploded with warm, smoky flavor and were expertly balanced by a citrusy hit of pico. Raise your hand if you ever thought you would enjoy a green bean taco! Yeah, me too. To much surprise, while doing some digging on Block Taco’s fare, the most talked-about item was the chauchas. Patrons raved over an imaginative spin on an all-veggie taco; after a few bites, I could see why. The beans themselves still had a sharp, fresh snap, and their charred notes, along with the salty cojita and warm, roasty salsa, made for a very thoughtful dish. Need an extra zing of flavor? The condiments bar is loaded with chopped cilantro, limes, radishes, a zippy green tomatillo salsa, and an orange sauce to light up every bite.
The chicken taco definitely had an edge, thanks to the flavorful marinade of an earthy, aromatic BBQ sauce. On top: a crunchy, slightly sweet slaw and a generous drizzle of (what is likely) crème fraiche. I wouldn’t call the creation mind-blowingly unique, but each bite worked well together and is by far the opposite of bland.
The asada—charbroiled skirt steak—is a tough menu item to pass on, as the choir of ingredients includes the beautiful melody of marrow butter. The sliced steak achieved an unctuous mouth feel, which gloriously was contrasted by a sweet pop of chunky onions and grassy cilantro. As if they weren’t enough layers of goodness, the ancho chillies (dried poblano peppers who retain far more heat) produced a spicy kick I couldn’t help but wash down with a cerveza … or four.
I typically go for grilled over fried when it comes to fish tacos, but one look at the malt-tempura battered filets and my heart went pitter-patter. The smoky cream was a nice addition, but the star of the show was the uber fresh, well-seasoned fish.
While Block Taco offers sides of chips and salsa or guacamole—but two words: loaded nachos. It’s a shareable mountain of chips paired brilliantly with a pal or two, but it also made quite the comfort food to eat at home solo on the couch.
Though I was a bit disappointed to see bags of store-bought corn tortillas inside the window (my only quarrel), I was happy to hear the chips are at least fried onsite. They may not be rolling masa in-house, but I’d still consider them freshly-made. The triangles are smothered in cheese (a shredded, melty blend of jack and cheddar—not a drippy queso). I ordered mine with meat, but even with veg, the crunchy cucumber jalapeno salsa, creamy guacamole, and crumbly, aged scratchmade cojita make them the real deal.
Block Taco boasts authentic, high-quality ingredients, vibrant textures, and an all-around feel good, make-you-want-to-do-the-cha-cha vibe. I mean, it exemplifies the hip attitude of South Front.