The relief of finishing the final assignments before Spring Break showered over me (praaaaise!!). I could not wait to finally be able to fully rest for a week during a much anticipated and needed “descanso”, or “rest” for those of you non-Spanish speakers. Florida couldn’t get here soon enough!! Not only was I excited for the ocean breeze whipping my hair around, seafoam tickling my toes, and the sweet Florida sunshine bronzing (or frying?) my skin, but also, I couldn’t wait to get out of Lexington to try tacos from a different region for this class!!
St. Augustine, Florida was the first stop on the way down. The eventual destination was Ocklawaha, Florida, but we had a few places to go before getting to Ocklawaha on Sunday. When we got off the interstate after what seemed like 12 years of traveling instead of 12 hours, everyone was awake, happy, and ready to have sand in between their toes. Despite how our bodies might have felt — mine being exhausted and hungry and poorly redsted with a kink in my back — we were without a doubt bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We wound down the windows and turned up the music as we crossed over the Matanzas River. Once getting off the bridge, we passed a small taco truck on the way to the parking lot for the beach and we decided that was where we were going for dinner later. It was close, it seemed cheap, and it looked cool — it met all the requirements.
We arrived and parked. Running away from the car as fast as possible towards the beach, each of the six of us stretched our legs that had been crammed tightly in confined areas full of pillows, snacks, wires controlling music, and other napping bodies all day. I felt as free as could be. I had long awaited this trip. The consensus was to just rest on the beach from the drive, meaning no swim suits. We were just going to either lie on some beach towels or hang up a hammock in between two palm trees (the dreaaaam!) to take a little “siesta”. None of that happened. We wrote in the sand, had competitions for who could do the fastest crab walk, ate some snacks, threw a frisbee. Still exhausted, but now starving, we thought it was a good to head out to the taco shack nearby.
“Nalu’s Tropical Takeout,” it read.
Never in my 22 years of living had I ever had a tropical taco. My mouth was salivating. I was like a little kid in a candy store. “GIVE ME ALL THE TACOS,” my stomach was demanding. As R. Kelly put it, “MY MIND’S TELLIN’ ME NOOOOO… BUT MY STOMACH, MY STOMACH’S TELLIN’ ME YESSSSSSS!” That how it goes, right?
The aroma coming from the truck were delightful. It smelled as though a citrus-y and fruity flavored barbecue was brisking the air. Since we were in Florida, everything was mostly fresh seafood. I’m not huge into seafood, but shrimp and certain types of fish I can do, especially for this experience since it was fresh as can be. I ordered the “tropical shrimp tacos” with a meal description of it containing shrimp, mango, black bean salsa, cilantro, tropical cole slaw, cheddar jack cheese, and lime.
“Casey!!” they yelled out my name. I couldn’t wait. Everything about this spot was perfect. The colors, the fact that it was so close to the beach, the Hawaiian feel to the taco truck, every single dish being full of tropical flavors. I basically ran to the window that had humidity billowing out of it. Enclosed in a Styrofoam tray, I grabbed the container, thanking the cooks, and sat next to my friends at a table surrounded by a bedazzled fence with pieces of seaside artwork of mermaids, sunsets, and waves, giving the aesthetic a livened-up, warm, welcoming feel to it.
I cupped the taco in my hand, clenching the top to keep the ingredients from tumbling out. I sunk my teeth into the flour tortilla, and I knew this was a great decision. The mango and black bean salsa made my taste buds jerk in the best way possible. The grilled shrimp marinated in a little bit of spice made my tongue burn and my nose sweat. It was spicy, but it was so worth it. I didn’t even care; all I wanted was to absolutely devour every bit of this meal as soon as possible.
This incredible meal came along with a side of rice, yet it had a greenish or neon yellowish tint to it. Confused, yet intrigued, I tasted it. It was white rice, but for some reason it was green. It didn’t taste any different except the consistency was stickier and it was topped with something called “baja sauce” which was similar consistency to mayonaise and ranch dressing mixed together. It was a little spicy for my liking. I searched for a a replica of this strange rice to see the background story of it, but I think it is unique to Nalu’s Tropical Takeout — there was nothing about tinted white rice. Even on the menu it is labeled as just “rice”. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was nothing that could make this experience better. I didn’t think there was much else that could make it better either… until we discovered A SNO-CONE STAND RIGHT NEXT DOOR. God bless. It was the best day ever. If I’m ever in Saint Augustine, Florida again, I will be hunting down this taco stand. If I had to rate it, I would give it an 11 out of 10.