Chingon in Richmond has made a name for itself with simple, hearty and authentic tacos served fast and cheap. While a décor reminiscent of a hollowed out taqueria is nothing new, it’s the ’68 Lincoln Continental parked in the back (for no other reason other than its awesomeness) that’s a sure sign these guys have created an aesthetic niche that you’ll never be cool enough to replicate.
Continuing with that aesthetic, they’ve chosen to take their Mexican street food to the streets, and they’re doing it with one of the coolest food trucks this city has seen. If you grew up travelling the coast on family holidays, you’ll be familiar with the sight of a Kingswood towing a boxy Jayco caravan. They were never vehicles that inspired. That is until the brothers behind Chingon decide to cover one in hand beaten copper then have a hotrod pin striper add the branding and menu to it.
The brothers in question are the Balleaus, Mick and Will – two mildly intimidating, but softly spoken brothers that arrive with a mixed heritage (via Queensland and New Mexico). Growing up in New Mexico, they spent much of their time in the Mexico of old, becoming enveloped in the sights, sounds and flavours of the mean streets. The brothers are always dressed in black, like a formidable pair of cowboys on holiday from Albuquerque, who missed the memo about the heat wave. But this doesn’t mean that they’re any strangers to flavour or, for that matter, exceptional hospitality, both having spent years running major kitchens and venues. They’re two of the coolest guys you could meet and they make cheap, delicious tacos.
The caravan in question hits the streets this week, with a rotating cycle of spots across the city or for private hire. Launching with a party at their warehouse last week, complete with Mariachi band, a host of hotrods and a couple of donkeys for good measure, it would be hard to give a caravan a better christening.
As for the offering it’s genuine Mexican street food. As Will states, “Tacos are the king of street food,” and they form the basis of the offering. They hand press the tacos from a blue corn recipe and the ingredients speak for themselves. “In Mexico, street vendors are mainly subsistence families, just getting by on what they sell,” says Will. “So there are no lavish ingredients, just what’s available locally. And nothing goes to waste.”
But unlike Chingon the restaurant, there is no chance to sit and eat, so “everything has to be disposable”. As such, they’ve drawn on more street-based influences such as the delicious ‘elote en vaso’ – corn in a cup. Tamales come the traditional way, wrapped in a corn husk, ready for you to devour the chicken inside and dispose of its wrapping as you cruise the streets. “In Mexico you find these places on every corner, serving up food to take away. You might get corn in a cup from a guy on a bicycle with a burner on the back. That’s what traditional Mexican is to us”.
The traditional take on the Mexican breakfast is something few have endeavoured beyond the ‘breakfast burrito’ and it’s squarely in the boys’ plans to roll out some authentic breakfast pop-ups.
As for the lavish copper-covered caravan, Will’s mum assures “it’s very Mexican, you see copper everywhere”.
As with the rest of the mobile herd, social media is the best way to track the caravan’s whereabouts. For now, expect to see its bright copper body in Richmond and Collingwood, or follow the copper reflection.