Barcelona On the Go Has a Luxe Lonchera Legacy
Here's stating the obvious: We are nearing the end of the luxe lonchera movement. Few folks are bothering to own new ones anymore; the days of clustertrucks are long gone. Most of those remaining are transitioning to brick-and-motor spots, including Slapfish, Seabirds and Dogzilla. And the rest are closing for good, their owners having opened too late to make the Kogi-like riches that once seemed so easy to attain.
Then there's Barcelona On the Go. It was one of the first luxe loncheras in OC and always one of the best, manned by Latinos who brought a Spanish spin to sandwiches and traditional dishes. It has always maintained healthy crowds, and its schedule usually has the truck parked in tried-and-true spots around Newport Beach, Irvine and Huntington Beach. But Barcelona never quite blew up like, say, Soho Tacos or Dos Chinos, and it's a damn shame. For it has a menu that always impresses, that trots out new treats to draw Twitter buzz, but also maintains the classics to ensure the rent. Primary, of course, is the paella, an expanse of saffron-tinged rice and meats, each elevating the dish: soft chicken, hearty chorizo, zippy clams, pungent mussels. Given the paucity of Spanish food in la naranja, this paella is one of the finest meals to emerge from any OC lonchera, luxe or not.
But I've always preferred Barcelona's sandwiches because they allow the chefs to display their mastery of Spanish meats, cheeses and sauces. A chorizo grilled cheese finds Manchego fused to peppery Pamplona chorizo; even better is the butifarra, a Catalan sausage stuffed into a baguette and covered in red-pepper relish—spicy not in a Scolville sense, but rather in the way a good pimento pepper is. A red-bell-pepper aioli transforms an otherwise-straightforward chicken sandwich into something worth standing in line for an hour in the old days. It has also expanded beyond a once-straightfoward Spanish menu into a more pan-Latino take: good chilaquiles, tacos that have no real Spanish agenda but nevertheless impress, and sirloin fries that hint at the Argentine roots of the founders thanks to the great chimichurri.
So why didn't Barcelona ever truly take off? Put the blame on a general public who, beyond paella and sangria, will never really embrace Spanish cuisine and will always compare it (unfairly) to Mexican. A shame because Barcelona deserves a larger audience—a restaurant, even. In the meanwhile, celebrate it as it continues the weekly grind, content with its station but always on the—sure, why not—go.
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