In the wee hours of the night, white trucks decorated with flashing neon lights line the streets of the uptown neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City, dishing out burgers and fried finger foods to club-goers on their way home. The chimichurri, a Dominican street food burger, is by far the most requested item.
The traditional sandwich consists of a sazón-seasoned beef pattie, cabbage instead of lettuce, and tomatoes in toasted French bread. The finishing touch is the pink chimichurri sauce, not to be confused with the green South American sauce of the same name. Each truck serves its own variation of the condiment, usually a mix of ketchup and mayonnaise with soy sauce, orange juice, or Worcestershire sauce.
Here in Miami, you're hard-pressed to find one of the magically delectable sandwiches. So when we hear about Chimi Churri Los Primos Food Truck, an authentic mobile purveyor of chimis, we find ourselves driving to North Miami in the middle of the night like grease fiends.
We are in good company. Every weekend, the shiny red trailer on NW 36th Street attracts a large crowd of late-night diners from all over. Some patrons we speak to on a Saturday night have driven from as far south as Kendall and far north as Aventura to pick up one of Pedro Cruz's sandwiches. Stationed amid a strip of body shops and used car lots, the set-up of the family operation is pretty basic. There's a small awning with mismatched plastic tables and chairs next to the truck, and a wide open lot where most people park and eat.
We know we are at the right place when Cruz, leaning back on a dilapidated chair next to the truck, greets us with "Digame, prima!" (Tell me, cousin!) before reciting the entire menu in rapid-fire, Dominican-tinged Spanish. Everyone, it appears, is a cousin to Cruz.
We opt for a basic chimi and a jugo de chinola (passion fruit juice), and set up a table on the hood of our car next to a couple decked out like they are going to a club, and two mechanics in blue coveralls. Our pressed chimi sits on a styrofoam plate, a generous lathering of pink sauce dribbling from its sides. At first bite, we discover the meat is thin and juicy, with lots of seasoning, and the fresh, crunchy cabbage offers the perfect complementary texture to the creamy, tangy sauce.
We think, there's nothing really wrong with this sandwich. And yet, we can't help but feel like something is missing -- an unidentifiable explosion of spices, a kick of flavor -- some invisible magic that comes out of truck kitchens in Santo Domingo and Manhattan but isn't on full display here. Still, that's not to say we don't understand the appeal of the primo's sandwiches -- for someone who has never tasted any other chimi, this probably tastes revolutionary. And even for someone who has, this is the closest you get to the real deal in the 305.
In fact, as we wash down the last bite with the thick, violently sweet yellow juice, we've already accepted that we'll be coming back. That is, until we can bribe one of the Northern trucks to come set up shop down here.