You know you're doing it right when Gustavo approves of your tacos (and you're not El Chavito and the two-for-a-buck-plus-pineapple-juice in Huntington Beach). Gabe Zambrano is the head of the kitchen at Soho Taco, a gourmet taco cart that has been eating up Twitter, and this is his week on the line.
OC Weekly: What are six words to describe you?
Gabe Zambrano: Passionate, dedicated, humble, driven, creative and father.
OCW: Describe yourself in ten words.
GZ: Friends, family and customers are the joys in my life.
OCW: What are people going to notice when they bite into a gourmet taco?
GZ: They will notice all five senses getting a sensory adrenaline shot. First, they would hear the sizzling from the cart and the smell the aromas from the onions, garlic and tomatoes caramelizing on the grill. Visually, they'll take in the sight of the colorful salsas, like the heirloom pico de gallo. Then by touching the taco they would feel the warmth of the fresh tortilla in their hands. Finally, the taste of the whole package coming together with a salsa rounding everything out would complete the Soho Taco experience.
OCW: What's the best non-taco street food out there?
GZ: The caprese emapanadas by Jose Piaggio of Piaggio on Wheels. I just had some the other day and I thought they were excellent.
OCW: What's the one single thing home cooks can do to upgrade taco night (besides hire you)?
GZ: Please make the salsas from scratch and avoid store bought ones.
OCW: Is there anyplace in OC that you haven't sent a cart to that you would most like to?
GZ: I would love to take one of our carts to the OC Fair because growing up in Orange County I've always been drawn to the food court. Hopefully next year!
OCW: What's the best thing to drink with a Soho Taco?
GZ: Stay traditional. I recommend any bottled Mexican soda like Jarrito Tamarindo.
OCW: Any plans for expansion? Or a bricks-and-mortar store?
GZ: Yes, expansion is on the horizon. We're working with experts right now to hopefully get a store up and running in the near future, or maybe a truck…
OCW: You've managed even to satisfy Gustavo and his fine gueule. Were you nervous about his writeup?
GZ: Oh hell yes. I couldn't even sleep the night before going to OC Weekly headquarters. But, fortunately I came armed with confidence in my creativity, cooking techniques and knowledge of products. So, I was able to pull it off with results beyond my expectations.
OCW: What's your favorite restaurant in OC?
GZ: Without a doubt Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen in the City of Orange.
OCW: What's your favorite restaurant in America?
GZ: I actually love Peter Luger Steak House, which is all the way out in Brooklyn, NY.
OCW: If someone walks into a taquería, what are some signs they should look for that it's a good place? Or a place to avoid? (Assuming you're off catering a private event, let's say.)
GZ: The sight of pork roasting on an al pastor spit and the sound of hands slapping on masa making a fresh tortilla are always a good sign. On the other hand, when I see precooked food on a steam table, sure that might not be a good sign–but I always hope for the best.
OCW: What do we need more of in OC, foodwise?
GZ: Un-Americanized ethnic foods.
Follow Soho Taco on Twitter at @sohotaco.