“As he grew older, Bob was worried at how large people were growing all around him, especially their wide, waddling butts. He recalled how nice and petite bufalo butts usually were, considering how large of a beast the bufalo is! He vowed to do something about it. The more Bob learned about nutrition and the food business, the more it all began to look like some grand conspiracy to destroy the health of good Americans, being waged by the big chemical companies, the big food processing and distribution companies, and the fast food mega chains.” (Bufalo Bob, About page on Bufalo Bob’s official website)
Comedian Jim Gaffigan, in a stand up routine I once heard on Comedy Central, described the dishes at a Mexican restaurant as the same seven ingredients mixed together in different ways. His joke, as all jokes do, contains a kernel of truth. The difference between a chalupa and a hard taco, for example, is merely the shape of the corn shell that acts as the foundation for the other ingredients: beans, meat, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Bufalo Bob, of Bufalo Bob’s Chalupa Wagon, with his use of ingredients such as flax seed, hummus, and parmesan cheese, over-turns the traditional Tex-Mex with the flavorful chalupas he serves out of his food truck in the parking lot on the corner of S 1st and Live Oak .
Bufalo Bob Chalupa’s Update: Bufalo Bob has moved his trailer to a new location: 411 W. 23rd (right behind the UT Coop)
On a recent beautiful, clear spring day, Elizabeth and I packed B and H into their carseats and headed up S 1st in search of this Celiac Holy Grail: the completely safe and satisfying gluten-free dining experience. We had heard that Bufalo Bob’s Chalupa Wagon is a totally gluten-free restaurant where one can also find vegan and vegetarian offerings. We checked out the menu before we went to the restaurant and found that on the chalupas that include meat as an ingredient, he uses only natural, hormone-free chicken and bison. Additionally, the menu states that Bob uses no genetically modified vegetables on any of his chalupas. The menu promises quite a bit: all these wonderfully natural and wholesome ingredients, in a dedicated gluten-free facility! We had high hopes for this restaurant, but our hopes have been dashed before so we tried to temper our enthusiasm as we went in search of the wagon where all this allegedly marvelous gluten-free food is served.
Heading North on S 1st, we found the trailer located in a small parking lot on the right hand side of the street. The parking is sparse (perhaps the only complaint one can make against Bob’s food trailer restaurant) but we managed to squeeze into a small space at the far end of the lot from the trailer. In the corner of the building, near where Bob’s trailer is parked, is a small stage on which bands play regularly for the customers who sit at the picnic tables between the Bob’s trailer and the stage. Seating is limited around the trailer, so I’m not sure where the customers sit if they want listen to the music for a while. Somehow, though, Bufalo Bob manages to provide big entertainment in a small area; his Facebook page lists a full schedule of live events throughout each month.
We were fortunate this particular day and didn’t have to wait in line to order. We ordered a San Antonian (Texas hummus, flax seed, chicken, onion, lettuce, tomato, and cheese), a Pecos (Texas hummus, flax seed, green olive, bison, onion, lettuce, tomato, and cheese), a side of blue corn chips with hummus and Texas hummus, and three Blue Sky soft drinks. The portion sizes of the chalupas and the side of corn chips were about what we expected they might be, and were just the right size. We had a little food left over, and we were too full to even consider stopping for dessert on the way home! The chalupas, though they look like the regular, familiar Tex-Mex chalupa fare, were piled high with meat and vegetables, and both the San Antonian and the Pecos had some tang to them and were full of flavor. The salsa added just enough heat to the chalupas to make its presence known without being overly-aggressive. We feel we received an adequate amount of food for the the price we paid: $23 and some change.
Any complaint I have about our lunch experience at Bufalo Bob’s Chalupa Wagon is rooted in the food truck venue, rather than stemming from the restaurant itself. The day we ate at Bob’s was an unusually windy day for Austin. We had trouble holding down plates, napkins, and drink cans. Also, we had trouble leaving the parking lot; a truck blocked our exit from the parking space, but it was a large truck and had no room in that tiny area to be out the way as its driver picked up his order from the chalupa wagon. Bufalo Bob’s menu clearly welcomes call ahead orders, and I think – for me, anyway – the best way to enjoy Bob’s chalupas is to call in an order, pick it up, and enjoy the scrumptious food somewhere else.
Upon finishing our meal, I stopped at the trailer window to ask Bob how long he has been at his current location, and as he answered he also gave me more information about the mission he serves with his chalupa wagon. His wife suffered from illness for about fifteen years, and as is common among Celiacs, was misdiagnosed with various maladies until a few years ago when she finally found a clinic at which she was tested for Celiac. Her test for Celiac came back positive, and so began Bob’s journey toward opening his dedicated gluten-free food trailer. Bob and his wife found, after her diagnosis, that cross-contamination is a serious problem for Celiacs who want to eat out. Bob decided to open a restaurant at which people with Celiac can safely eat. Everything is gluten-free, except that Bob does add a small amount of beer to his Texas hummus – some Celiacs can tolerate a tiny amount of beer but others can’t, so order the hummus accordingly (Elizabeth and I are pretty sensitive to even small amounts of gluten, but we had no problems after having eaten the Texas hummus).
Bob is also very concerned about the negative impact corporate farming has on our food supply, and believes people should have the option of buying food they know they can trust to be healthy. By offering gluten-free and GMO-free food at his chalupa wagon, he provides a safe-eating environment for Celiacs as well as for those people who can eat gluten, but who seek out food made with wholesome, natural ingredients. With his dedicated gluten-free facility and gluten-free food made with the healthiest ingredients, Bufalo Bob has created that for which Celiacs long and search for. Bufalo Bob’s Chalupa Wagon is, indeed, a Celiac Holy Grail.