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Fresno, you’re just a few days away from Taco Heaven. I mean, Taco Truck Throwdown 7. Sorry, I’ve begun a bad habit of muttering “Taco Heaven” again and again whenever I start talking about this weekend’s #TTT7.
I’m Mike Oz, one of the founders and organizers of Fresno’s annual Taco Truck Throwdown. This year, we’ve been working hard to bring to life a vision for Taco Truck Throwdown that’s been banging around in our heads for the last couple years.
It’s a two-day event! Two days of tacos! Plus a new festival setup on the second day that is giving you an entirely different Taco Truck Throwdown experience.
Wait, so Taco Truck Throwdown is two days this year?
That’s right. Taco Truck Throwdown, the biggest taco festival this city has ever seen, is now even bigger. It’s spread across two days—Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29—at Chukchansi Park in downtown Fresno.
What’s happening Friday?
Friday is the same Taco Truck Throwdown you know and love. It takes place during the Fresno Grizzlies game against the New Orleans Baby Cakes, with 30 taco trucks spread around the concourse level of the stadium. Basically, we slid our previous Thursday night event over to Friday. There are still $2 beers, and now the added bonus of Friday night fireworks. This is the night our panel of judges pick the best taco. Doors open at 5 p.m. and tacos are sold until the end of the Grizzlies game.
What’s happening Saturday?
Saturday is our all-day taco festival, which I’ve now dubbed Taco Heaven. There’s no baseball game Saturday, but we have plenty of other stuff going on. It’s a great day of entertainment built around our fantastic taco trucks. It starts with folkloric dancers at 2 p.m. then live music until 11:15 p.m. There’s a wide variety of music, from ska and alt-rock to covers and traditional Mexican music. There’s a break in the middle for the World Taco-Eating Championship and we have a comedy show from Chingo Bling, who is coming from Houston to perform for us. He does parody songs and comedy. He’s like Weird Al for people who go to taco trucks. Doors open Saturday at 2 p.m.
Got a schedule for all that?
And the taco trucks are there for both days?
Yes. On Saturday, they’ll even be on the baseball field, which is something new and cool. Honestly, we’ve wanted to get them on the field for years. This year we have the chance.
What’s the ticket situation?
Very good question. You need a ticket for each day. On Friday, you need a baseball ticket. As you know, those range in price depending on where you want to sit. On Saturday, we’re selling general admission tickets. They cost $10 in advance. Small price to see Joey Chestnut destroy dozens of tacos in the World Taco-Eating Championship and see Chingo Bling do his thing.
How about my kids?
Another very good question. One of the reasons we wanted to expand to two days was because we wanted to give more families the chance to come out. Thursday night isn’t the best time to haul your kids to a taco truck party, especially when you have to work the next day. We get that. So Saturday is a great chance to bring out the fam. Kids 10 and under get free admission Saturday. On Friday, it’s the usual Grizzlies policy—kids under 3 are free. If they don’t like tacos, that’s cool. Some of the regular stadium concessions will be open, too.
I’ve heard I have to use taco vouchers to buy tacos. How do those work?
Taco vouchers are the currency of Taco Truck Throwdown (instead of paying cash at the trucks, you use vouchers). They cost $2.50 and each voucher is good for one taco at any taco truck you want. Here’s a good tip: You can buy your taco vouchers in advance at the Fresno Grizzlies box office. One less line, right?
On Saturday, in our festival setup, you’ll also be able to buy different items from each truck—burritos, quesadillas, carne asada fries, etc. You’ll just need to use taco vouchers, so items would cost two or three vouchers. Each truck sets its own menu.
So about this taco-eating contest …
Yes! It’s going to be fantastic. We have the same people you see on the famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest coming to Fresno. That includes Joey Chestnut, the most famous competitive eater in the world. Matt Stonie, who is a YouTube star and the No. 2 eater in the world, is coming too. In all, we have seven of Major League Eating’s Top 20 competitors. We’ll also have one local eater going against the pros. Whoever wins our amateur competition on Friday night will advance to the finals on Saturday. On Friday, the first person to eat 20 tacos wins.
What’s the best time to come if I just want to eat as many tacos as possible?
This is my favorite question because I think Taco Truck Throwdown requires a good strategy. It’s like going to Disneyland. You need to go in with a gameplan. If your goal is to sample as many tacos as possible, be there when the doors open each day—5 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.
I’ve heard the lines are long, is that true?
They have been in the past, yes. We’re not going to lie about that. Any event with thousands of people is going to have lines. Like Disneyland, right? But last year, the lines moved at a better pace than years past. And we think spreading it over two days will help. That’s not to say you won’t have to wait, you will, but we’re hoping we’ve found the right ratio of trucks to people that will help move things along.
What taco trucks do I HAVE to try?
That’s like asking me my favorite kid. There are so many good ones. Please don’t make me pick. I love them all.
OK, I will say that El Premio Mayor is our two-time defending champion, so they should probably be on your list if you’re a Taco Truck Throwdown newbie. Tacos Mazatlan is a former winner that you’ll be able to find this year. El Mexicano has been in every year and is always a favorite. Ortega’s from Reedley is one of the crowd favorites, as is Taqueria Jaliscience. La Jacka and Gonzalez Taqueria were both new last year and did well. And ever since, they’ve become pretty popular in town.
This year we have about 10 new trucks in the Throwdown, including Guadalajara, one of the long-running Mexican restaurants in town. Other new ones: Casa De Tamales, La Imperial Taqueria, Jalapeno Face, Latin Urban Bistro and La Luna.
See, just try them all. It’s Taco Heaven.