The best food is always local food. The more local, the better. No pizza from any big chain can compare to a simple pie cooked by somebody who owns a house in your town. A hamburger will always taste better if it is cooked by somebody who has kids who go to a school in the area. And tacos, the epitome of delicious simplicity, always taste better when served out of a local truck. This is the sentiment that convinced us to try Olivo Taco, the local chain of taco trucks that you can’t help but notice driving around Rockford.
Nobody named Olivo actually owns these taco trucks – the owners are brothers Mahmud and Said Zatar, who have their silly-looking faces plastered prominently on every single truck. They’re serious eye-catchers, and when you’re driving down the street and see one of them, they do a good job at asking you “wouldn’t you like a taco?” Well of course we’d like a taco, dear Zatar brothers, we’d love one. We’d really, really love one.
The best gimmick of Olivo Taco is their low price point: pay five dollars, get three tacos. Can it be any better than that? Not even at Taco Bell can you get tacos for that price! And these aren’t some dinky hard-shell tacos, these are fully loaded soft shells with sour cream, cheese, tomatoes, cilantro, onion and lettuce. The tacos come in four varieties: chicken, steak, fish, and veggie. We haven’t yet tried the fish or veggie options (we aren’t even sure what’s in the veggie ones, is there a protein? Beans?), and they also provide pico de gallo, elotes in a cup, and Mexican rice. It’s a very slim menu, suited for being served out of a trailer, but it provides actual focus on a few core items for maximum flavors. They also promise al pastor tacos in the future, but we have no idea when.
Olivo Taco’s standalone restaurant is a little place with way more seating than it needs, being primarily take-out oriented. This will probably change once more people get vaccinated (we did! Are you getting your shot soon?) and people start to feel safer eating in restaurants. As it is, the only important part is the ordering counter: you come in through the doors, place your order right away, then go around the counter to the other side to pick up your order. They even ask you for your phone number when you order so they can send you a ready text. That’s convenience, right there.
The tacos come in little paper clamshells, all nuzzled together like a bunch of baby birds. It’s kind of cute. We of course got our tacos with the works, because the only place that we trust to have good lettuce and tomatoes are taco places anyway. We got three chicken tacos and three steak tacos, and we want to make this very clear: these are the best tacos we have ever eaten. This was some of the best food we have ever eaten.
Each taco was a masterpiece of the craft, a contrast of flavors and textures bundled into a bite sized package. The steak was the obvious superior of the two. It is the best carne asada we ever had, so good we both completely involuntarily yelped when we tasted it. So rich, so fatty, seasoned just right as to not overpower the taste of the meat but as to accent it – perfect. This is not to diminish how good the chicken tacos were, however. They were tiny chunks of fried chicken (we believe? It was hard to tell. The chicken was bright orange and looked breaded) that were tender and juicy. If you don’t like red meat, the chicken is the definite way to go.
You simply must get these tacos fully loaded, because it just doesn’t feel like a full experience without them. There’s no charge for toppings unless you’re getting extra, so if you’re asking for things to be left off, you’re just losing money. The lettuce is crisp, the tomatoes juicy, the sour cream tangy, the cheese creamy, the onions crunchy, and the cilantro didn’t taste like soap! It tasted the way cilantro is supposed to taste! No other taco we have ever eaten could pull that off! Every bite is an explosion, loaded to the brim with goodies, so make sure you’re eating the taco over your clamshell.
And what would tacos be without taco sauce? Olivo offered mild and hot, and of course we chose hot. And this sauce was hot. It had a strong, building heat comparable to the horrifying 2x Spicy Noodles we ate so long ago, but it didn’t stick around for too long. It had an addictive quality, like trying to see how close you could put your hand to a lit stove. We still have some in the fridge. It’s too tempting to put it on everything.
We also got an order of their rice, which was very good, but not “write home” good. Definitely get the rice as a side if you’re looking to make this a meal, but otherwise focus on the tacos. The rice is a side dish and it knows it. It’s flavorful, fluffy, and something we’ll definitely be getting again, but it’s still just Mexican rice. They don’t even have beans.
If you are in Rockford for any reason, there is no reason why you should not go to Olivo Taco. It’s cheap, it’s easy, there’s trucks everywhere, and it’s really, really, REALLY good. You have to try it. It’s only five dollars. You can afford that, can’t you? Come on, you KNOW you want it.