201105SPSTREETFOOD

Beth Webb, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, ordered these fish tacos during a recent visit to the South Padre Streetfood truck in Janesville. The tacos, which cost $8.99 for two, came with chips and salsa on the side.

JANESVILLE

Dining inside restaurants makes some of us a little apprehensive, even with all of the safeguards the establishments provide.

So while we are still adjusting to the limitations of this pandemic and how it has affected eating out, we thought trying a non-brick-and-mortar restaurant (aka a food truck) could provide us with a level of comfort we all could agree upon.

The South Padre Streetfood food truck was the first of its kind in Janesville. Since then, food trucks have become a more common sight around town.

South Padre’s focus is on seafood, and that sounded perfect. We had a heck of a time finding the truck at its permanent location on Foster Avenue, but we were determined. We all arrived separately on a dark and rainy night with the light from the GPS as our only guide. In better weather, there is a picnic table on the lawn in front of the truck for outdoor dining.

South Padre’s appetizer selection is great, and we ended up getting a couple of rounds of the crab and shrimp cakes ($8.99 for two) so we each could sample one. Delicately deep-fried, the cakes were seasoned well and were not too dry. I loved dunking mine in the slightly smoky sauce.

For dinner, I chose the fish tacos (two for $8.99). There is a full range of choices as to fillings, and I went with one halibut and one mahi mahi.

By the time I got home, the tortilla wasn’t holding together well, so I ate it with a fork. I should look into how to keep tacos from falling apart. It’s a common problem.

I loved the crunchy cabbage South Padre adds, and the fish was flaky and delicious. The sides were chips and salsa, which I thought was pushing the medium to spicy, so be forewarned.

Jennifer chose the blackened salmon ($16.99) as her entree under the “fish fry” portion of the menu. Seafood options include cod, mahi, halibut, salmon and gulf shrimp.

She was somewhat confused as to what her meal came with because she thought the handwritten menu on the truck indicated chipotle slaw and potato pancakes, but neither of those appeared in her to-go box. Instead, her meal contained chips and salsa and a hefty bowl of gumbo. She also was expecting her salmon to be firm with a blackened crust. To the contrary, it was soft but flavorful. Chopped tomatoes and onion lay atop the salmon filet to enhance its overall taste.

The aromatic gumbo—chock full of chicken, shrimp, hunks of beef, smoked sausage, celery, carrots, peppers and onions—had an earthy, smoky flavor. Its spiciness level was quite high, just the way she likes it.

Helene chose the Kraken ($15.99), which is South Padre’s signature sandwich from the “specialties” side of the menu board. It felt like a Dagwood Bumstead-type sandwich with three layers of multigrain bread. This was a nice touch that helped stabilize this beast but did nothing to prevent the seafood from slipping and sliding out.

Helene was relieved no one was around to witness her eating it.

It contained three types of fish—fried mahi mahi, gulf shrimp and crab cakes—but only the flavor of the crab cakes really stood out. There were a lot of textures going on, and it was a little overwhelming. In addition to the fish, the sandwich also featured bacon, crisp lettuce and juicy slices of tomato.

Nikki ordered the lobster and crab roll ($15.99) and added a side of chips, salsa and chipotle slaw ($3). The sandwich was similar to Helene’s—overflowing with seafood and a bit on the messy side, but very delicious.

The rich crab and lobster salad filling had chopped celery and strips of cabbage, which added some crunch. The sandwich was served on a huge French roll, which was a welcome upgrade from the traditional hot dog bun.

The menu listed a pesto aioli as an accompaniment, but the sauce didn’t appear to have any basil and looked more like a remoulade. Although the filling had a mayonnaise base, the aioli did add a nice flavor. The chips and salsa were excellent, too. The salsa was served warm, which was another tasty departure from tradition.

Most of us had visited the truck in the past whenever we saw it parked around town. I’m so happy South Padre Streetfood now is here year-round and that I now I know how to find it. Where else in Janesville can you get such a great selection of fish?

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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