The grilled cob pops in my mouth as I take a bite. It’s succulent. It’s simple. It’s Elote.
Four years ago brothers Armando and Leandro started realizing their dream. After a year of strategizing, getting permits, and perfecting the schematics of their ‘vehicular dispensary,’ Armando and Leandro began living the dream: selling roasted corn to the masses.
For the last three years they’ve parked their truck at various locations throughout SanTana: the swap meet up on 17th; the corner of Bristol and Sunflower; numerous Orange County festival locations. Although their location has changed over the years, their product has not; Armando and Leandro are perfecting the art of corn roasting.
They roast dozens of ears of corn each day, and their method and passion to do so has only increased over the years. First, they place the ears of corn (husk and all) into a 4 foot-cubed roaster where for fifteen minutes the ears are cradled in 400-degree heat, roasting to perfection. Then these babies are husked and hit the grill. The resultant ear resembles nothing close to its raw counterpart; the grilled corncob is checkered yellow and black, its raw counterpart a lifeless pale yellow.
Once the corn is checkered perfect, Leandro removes it from grill, wraps a paper plate around it, and sticks a wooden handle into it–grilled corn on a stick, the lollipop of the cooked veggie world. (And any veg-head would delight in these.) He’ll then add toppings to your delight: mayonnaise, cheese, lime or chili. Do this sound weird yet? I can’t tell, I grew up eating ears of corn brushed with mayonnaise and sprinkled with parmesan cheese: very cheap, very good, and very comforting.
Leandro and Armando also serve up Esquite: corn kernels in a cup complemented with a dash of chili and grated cheese, a squeeze of lime, all swimming together in warm soupy juices. Esquite, on these brisk December evenings, is a crescendo arpeggio of warm goodness.
As I learn about the process of roasting corn, I also learn about the brothers themselves. They come from Puebla, Mexico. Leandro, the older one, came to the US first, his brother followed a couple years later. As I listen, it becomes apparent this hasn’t been easy for them. This is their first business and by the time they were up and running they both had families and both in their early 40’s; not the most convenient time to invest your savings, down to the very last mother phuckin’ peso, into a 15-foot roaster on wheels. When asked how business is going in these dogged depression days their response is hopeful. They’re both optimists who tend to look for the positive; they won’t let some downturn in the economy dissuade them from their dream.
A boiled corn cob will cost you a buck and a half; elotes asados (roasted corn) and Esquite’ll run you two bucks a pop. Elotes aside, their menu is pretty standard. They serve up tortas ($4), tacos ($1.50), hot dogs ($1.50), burritos ($4), mulitas ($3) and more.
While hanging out at their truck I talk with one of their customers. He’s on his lunch break and he’s making a corn run for the guys: eight elotes each made to order. I ask him if he knows of any other elote truck around town, he doesn’t; Los Reyes might be the only one.
Los Reyes de el Elote Asado, on Chestnut between Main Street and Sycamore, Monday thru Saturday, 11am-8:30pm.