Not sure if you’ve heard, but here in Fresno, tacos are kind of a big deal.
We’ve proven that year after year at our Taco Truck Throwdown. And people around the country know the deal. The Central Valley’s Mexican food scene just got a huge write-up at Eater.com, and a good chunk of it included the Fresno taco scene.
Good timing, because Taco Truck Throwdown 8 is this week. It’s your chance to taste the greatness that happens in your own backyard. Last year, our event attracted 20,000 people who ate more than 50,000 tacos. This year, we’re looking to go even bigger.
I’m Mike Oz, one of the founders and organizers of Taco Truck Throwdown, and a dude who goes to entirely too many local taco spots. And if you want the scoop on TTT8, you’ve come to the right place.
FresYes.com asked me break down some of the common questions we get about Taco Truck Throwdown and tell you everything you need to know about this week’s event.
Trust me when I tell you, there’s no better place to sample the Fresno taco scene all in one place than TTT8!
What days are Taco Truck Throwdown this year?
Good question. TTT8 is Thursday, July 19, and Friday, July 20. Yes, two days again. There’s been some confusion because last year’s event was Friday and Saturday. When you’re building around a baseball team’s schedule, you gotta be flexible. I swear it’s happening Thursday and Friday this year — don’t listen to what your cousin’s friend said on Facebook.
What’s happening Thursday?
Thursday is the same Taco Truck Throwdown you know and love. It takes place during the Fresno Grizzlies game against the Sacramento RiverCats, with 30 taco trucks spread around the concourse level of the stadium. This is the night our panel of judges picks the best taco. Doors open at 5 p.m. and tacos are sold until the end of the Grizzlies game. To get in, you need a ticket to the baseball game — any ticket — and then you can join our giant taco party.
What’s happening Friday?
Friday we’re going big on entertainment! We’ve stepped it up HUGE this year by booking Mexican music legend Ramon Ayala — who is basically the Elvis of Norteño music. We’ve also got hip-hop legend DJ Quik, making this a one-of-a-kind meeting of two icons. We feel like it’s the perfect combo for Fresno. We’ve also got the World Taco-Eating Championships with the pros from Major League Eating, which are worth the price of admission alone. Last year, Joey Chestnut ate a record 92 tacos. It was wild. Joey’s not back this year, but last year’s No. 2 finisher is hoping to take the crown. That’s Matt “Megatoad” Stonie, who is pretty damn famous too. You’ve probably seen some of his extreme eating YouTube videos.
For Day 2, all of the taco trucks are on the baseball field, which is a fun way to eat tacos. We’ll also have Lucha Xtreme wrestling, live music from 40 Watt Hype, Califas, and DJ Kay Rich. We have a taco-themed art show featuring a long list of talented local artists. Gates open at 5 p.m. and we close at 1:30 a.m.
And the taco trucks are there for both days?
Yes. Day 1 around the stadium concourse and Day 2 on the field.
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. Matt Stonie, who is a YouTube star and the No. 3 eater in the world, is coming, so are some of the biggest competitive-eating pros in the world. We’ll also have one local eater going against the pros. Whoever wins our amateur competition on Thursday night will advance to the finals on Friday. On Thursday, the first person to eat 20 tacos wins. If you want to be a part of that, email email@example.com.
What’s new this year?
One fun addition is something you won’t find anywhere else. With the help of Fresno Ideaworks, we’ve constructed a taco-themed mini golf course that will be part of Chukchansi Park for TTT8. Trust me, you’re gonna want to Instagram the heck out of this.
We’ve also partnered with Ordrslip — a great local company that makes mobile-ordering apps for restaurants — to create a brand new VIP experience. Our VIPs for Friday night will be able to order tacos directly from their phones using Ordrslip’s technology. People in the VIP section will have their choice of eight trucks and the tacos will be delivered right to the VIP area. If that sounds amazing, don’t wait around. We’re limiting VIP tickets to 200.
What’s the ticket situation?
You need a ticket for each day. On Thursday, you need a baseball ticket. As you know, those range in price depending on where you want to sit. On Friday, tickets cost $25 for general admission and $75 for front-row VIP seats (which also includes taco vouchers and drink tickets). Paying $25 tickets to see Ramon Ayala is a good deal — $25 for everything we’ve got planned? It’s a tremendous bargain.
Tickets are available online or at the Fresno Grizzlies box office, which is open 9 a.m. until the seventh inning on game days.
How about my kids?
Usual Grizzlies policy applies — 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 Friday, 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, three or four vouchers. Each truck sets its own menu.
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. The crowds won’t be as big, and you can plow through the taco trucks. Same goes for later in the event.
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. The last two years, lines have been better. Last year in particular, spreading it out to two days proved to really 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.
El Mexicano is our defending champion, so they should be on your list, for sure. From there, our roster includes people who have been serving great tacos in the Fresno area for years like Guadalajara, Tacos Mazatlan, Los Toritos, and Ortega’s. There’s a new generation of trucks looking to cement their legacies too — La Imperial, La Jacka, and Taqueria Jaliscience, among them.
We’ve also got a lot of new trucks this year. Eight by my count, that includes Steve’s Tacos, Chuy’s Tacos, Taco Bout It, Taqueria La Authentica, and La Vaporera.
Are there vegetarian/vegan options?
Yes! La Jacka is already a favorite among local vegans for their jackfruit tacos. The Pita Kabob Truck has cauliflower tacos. A few trucks — Chuy’s Tacos, Las Adas Manzanillo and a couple others — also have fish taco options.