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Cheap Eats visits Lloyd Taco truck

The first bite into a Lloyd burrito is an exhilarating moment.

You’re aware of what you ordered, of course. Maybe it’s tomatillo pork with medium Rocket Sauce, crema Mexicana, pickled red onions, or braised beef with queso fresco, hot Rocket Sauce and rice and beans. Regardless, the combination of flavors in the first chomp sets the tone.

Will you get a rush of Rocket Sauce, a satisfying sting of the red chile Lloyd original that packs a punch, or the clean contrast of tender shredded pork and crunchy cabbage?

The local craze surrounding Lloyd Taco, which pioneered Buffalo’s food-truck movement in 2010 and recently won $250,000 cash in CNBC’s “Restaurant Startup,” stems from two factors: the food and the brand.

The menu on the fleet of four lime-green trucks may seem simple: there are tacos ($2.59), burritos ($6.89) and “tricked-out nachos” ($6.89), a few sides and limited drinks.

To build their tacos and burritos, many Lloyd customers are content with selecting from staple proteins: chimichurri chicken, tomatillo pork and braised beef (black beans are available as a substitute), and then adding toppings. Instead of using lettuce, Lloyd trusts shredded cabbage, which keeps its crunch longer. Also, a tip: a little Rocket Sauce goes a long way.

The more adventurous, however, may opt for a special taco ($3.09) or burrito ($7.89), handwritten on a dry-erase board at the ordering window of each truck. Announced daily through Lloyd’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, these fleeting offerings are magnetic for Lloyd regulars.

Fish tacos (panko-breaded wild-caught Alaskan pollock, chipotle mayo, cabbage, radish, cilantro and lime), available every Friday during Lent, are endearing for a surprising reason: the spicy-creamy mayo is the star, adding vigor to the crispy fish.

Lloyd’s most coveted special, the Dirty South (buttermilk hormone- and antibiotic-free fried chicken, local maple syrup, waffle crisps, baby kale and bacon aioli), has loyal Lloydians campaigning for a more regular spot on the special menu. The notion of chicken and waffles stuffed inside a burrito sends salivary glands into overdrive and drags Western New Yorkers out of their cozy offices into frigid temperatures – just for a burrito from a truck.

The Big Lloyd (a healthier take on McDonalds’ Big Mac) and El Gordo (fried pork skins) are other specials, while the Skinny Thai (fried tofu with peanut sauce) is a vegetarian-vegan option.

The customizable menu and locally sourced, from-scratch ingredients, are compelling, but the mystery surrounding Lloyd’s identity also has piqued curiosities.

When co-founders Peter Cimino and Chris Dorsaneo chose the business name, the intent was to create a persona, one less reflective of the owners’ names and more to be molded by customer imaginations. “People are always talking about who Lloyd is,” Cimino said. “We’re really happy we left it open like that – the food and the name are as fun as we’d imagined.”

Originally considering a poutine-and-burgers truck, the two longtime friends from Kenmore became obsessed with the attitude of Los Angeles’ Kogi BBQ Taco Truck, often credited with trailblazing the country’s red-hot mobile food wave through persistence, social media and trendy fare.

Making the Kogi approach work in Buffalo wasn’t easy for Lloyd, but Cimino helped lead the food trucks’ charge to a fair set of regulations, and the Lloyd brand exploded as food trucks became interwoven into an already strong Buffalo food scene.

From sweet-and-spicy Aztec Brownies to creamy Krazy Korn to comfort staple Mackin’ Cheese, Lloyd Taco’s ingenuity and quality makes it well equipped to open its Hertel restaurant in May.

Lloyd Taco trucks

Where: Varying locations around Western New York; see Lloyd’s Facebook page or website (863-9781, whereslloyd.com)

Hours: Weekly lunches (11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in winter), regular dinner service (5:30 to 7:30 p.m.) and late-night on weekends (11:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.)

Wheelchair Access: Yes.

Extras: Lloyd accepts both cash and credit.

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