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Santa Fe Food Trucks Worth Chasing After

Santa Fe Food Trucks Worth Chasing After

All photos by Juliet White

Charles Goodnight originally invented the chuck wagon to feed cowboys during a cattle drive between Texas and New Mexico, so it is only fitting that the chuck wagon’s modern-day descendants have rolled into Santa Fe dispensing gourmet food. These are six of Santa Fe’s best food trucks:

Bang Bite Filling Station

Bang Bite has turned a nondescript gravel parking lot across from New Mexico’s state capitol into *the* place to do lunch. The Bite Burger is massive, but its heft isn’t an excuse to skimp on taste or texture. Avocado provides a cooling counterbalance to the surge of heat from a blend of five types of roasted chiles. And forget about limp, fast-food bacon. These rashers are smoked and crunchy. It’s an engineering miracle that an un-toasted, soft bun is capable of bearing such a thick patty, complete with toppings. That said, perhaps Bang Bite’s biggest achievement is the fries that, in their skins-on seasoned glory, are addictive enough to fill a rehab facility.

Price: $8.75 for the burger, $3 for trailer fries
Seating: About six picnic tables
Location: In a parking lot at the intersection of Old Santa Fe Trail and Paseo de Peralta (opposite the Roundhouse)

Taqueria Argelia

The soundtrack of this truck is a constantly ringing phone, as a stream of nine-to-fivers call in orders. Waits can last as long as twenty minutes at lunch but, for the control freak gourmand, it’s worth it. The menu is customizable, enabling you to pair your choice of meat with virtually any dish. Try taking the fully loaded chicken nachos for a test drive. A light marinade leaves the meat moist, while a cilantro sauce douses the spice that comes from chunky discs of jalapeño.

Price: $6 for the chicken nachos
Seating: None, but the smell of tires wafting from the neighboring auto shop makes dining nearby unappealing anyway!
Location: In a lot in front of 4033 Cerrillos Road (cross street Apache Avenue)

Santa Fe BBQ

For drop-off-the-bone pork, you can’t beat the ribs at Santa Fe BBQ. The meat is expertly trimmed, resulting in lean ribs that are then marinated and cooked over wood chips — some days fruit wood, other days hickory. A selection of sauces lets you decide on your BBQ style. Choose the hickory brown sugar for a sauce with the faintest memory of heat and a sweet taste without being cloying. Alternatively, jumpstart your taste buds with the chile-laden Santa Fe barbecue sauce.

Tip: Go early. The Meat Man sells out fast!
Price: $13 a half slab of pork ribs
Seating: None
Location: Usually 600 Old Santa Fe Trail, but the truck is only there a few days a week. Check Santa Fe BBQ’s website for the schedule.

La Fogata Grill

An energizing burst of cilantro suffuses the air whenever this truck’s window slides open. La Fogata serves up a limited menu of traditional meats, such as tongue and tripe. But you can’t go wrong with the ham torta. It may be the bulky, less sophisticated cousin of a croque monsieur, but this sandwich explodes with flavor. The salt from the thick-cut ham is smoothed out by a generous layer of avocado. And the fluffy bread is fried just enough to give it the structural integrity to support the generous portions of cheese, ham, and veggies.

Closed: Sunday and Monday
Price: $6 for the ham torta
Seating: None
Location: In front of 1242 Siler Road, in the parking lot (cross street Siler Lane)

Bambini’s

Santa Fe may be many states away from Philadelphia, but you can still score an authentic cheesesteak in the high desert. Try the Original Bambini’s cheesesteak; its beef is marinated to add a smoky quality and has a mild bite from the black pepper. Add the tangy cheddar sauce for a juicy, if messy, meal. For a twist on the classic, consider ordering The Greek Steak, which comes with a refreshing cucumber garlic tzatziki sauce and an abundance of veggies.

Price: $8.79 for the Original
Seating: A few tables with umbrellas
Location: Parked next to 905 S. St. Francis Drive (cross street Cerrillos Road)

Taqueria del Pueblo

“Jewelry! Musical instruments! Guns!” read signs emblazoned across the windows of a neighboring pawn shop. Taqueria del Pueblo’s location won’t be accused of charm any time soon, so ask for the el pastor taco plate to go. El pastor is spit-grilled pork, marinated with chiles and pineapple, which gives the pork an appropriate flame color. The meat arrives inside gently pressed flour tacos, which bridge the gap between soft and crispy. A sprinkle of cilantro and chopped pineapple complete the dish. The plate is unexpectedly accompanied by a whole, roasted poblano pepper, while other sides include paprika-saturated Spanish rice, refried beans, and a thin, chile sauce to fan the flames if needed.

Price: $6 for the el pastor taco plate
Seating: Barely – one camping table
Location: In a parking lot outside 3668 Cerrillos Road

"Santa Fe Food Trucks Worth Chasing After" originally published on The Menuism Dining Blog.


A tale of two tacos: Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread embrace cross-cultural innovation

In his 2020 book “American Taco,” José R. Ralat uses the Abuelita Principle to explain the quest for “authenticity” when it comes to tacos in the United States. Americans have a bad habit, Ralat says, of comparing every taco they try to the exemplary ones made by a dearly departed grandmother or a long-remembered Juárez hole in the wall.

But really, every recipe evolves along with its environment. Even a taco as iconic to Mexico as al pastor was shaped by the influence of Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s easier to embrace culinary adaptation, no matter what the cuisine, over any abuelita principles. And in Santa Fe, two food trucks – Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos – are churning out a couple of perfectly delicious examples.

At Fusion Tacos, the red truck parked in front of Garcia Tires on Airport Road, owner Perla Ramon has capitalized on a hot food trend that caught fire last year in Southern California and is now sweeping the Southwest – birria tacos. “Birria” refers to the preparation of stewed meat (traditionally goat or lamb, though Ramon’s tacos use beef) that is slow-cooked in an earth oven, a style that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco before it was evolved by Tijuana and Los Angeles vendors in Dutch ovens or slow cookers.

At Fusion Tacos, the quesabirria tacos (cheese and beef) are served with a cup of the same silky broth for dipping purposes. After sharing a family pack (10 tacos for $20 on Taco Tuesdays, with a 16-ounce cup of cilantro-flecked consommé, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, fiery red and green salsas, and two sodas).

“Who doesn’t love a good dunk?” I thought in a George Costanza tone, dipping a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat-and-queso missile into its accompanying broth, not minding the juices that ran down my chin. I thought fondly of Philippe’s French dip sandwiches in LA, wondering if it was perhaps a Mexican cook who originated the roast beef baguettes served with a cup of dipping broth.

Fusion has leaned hard into its name with a menu that is equally decadent (more tacos, tortas, burritos) and healthy (salads, protein bowls, and even a breakfast lineup that includes a keto bowl and a “protein waffle”).

Over the past month or so, Santa Fe social media has been salivating over the arrival of a more local fusion food: Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos. The snazzy new turquoise truck, parked outside O’Reilly Auto Parts on Cerrillos Road, bills itself as “Santa Fe’s first and only Native American food truck.”

Saya’s Indian taco is a taco salad of sorts, and it’s delicious. (Molly Boyle/For the Journal)

Chef owner James Kailahi, whose mother is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, explained his reasoning for starting the truck by saying, “Santa Fe is filled with such extraordinary food from all over the world. And yet we’re surrounded by Native America, and there’s not one Native American eating establishment. It makes no sense.”

Before starting up the truck for its soft opening in Pojoaque, Kailahi cooked and served for years at several area restaurants. He credits chef Clay Bordan of the former Tabla de los Santos at the St. Francis Hotel for his mentorship, though his mother taught him how to make red chile. (“Saya” is a Tewa word that refers to the eldest woman in the family.) In perfecting his Indian taco recipe, he worked with both his mom and his wife, Medina, who was born and raised in San Ildefonso, to get all the elements exactly right.

But he also looked at Indian tacos across the country, trying to figure out how to make the best possible portable meal.

“Let’s be real: It’s a hassle to eat an Indian taco,” Kailahi says. “You have to fight with it, and by the time you’re halfway, you’re either tired or don’t want to eat any more.”

Saya’s serves an Indian taco ($10) that solves the burden of heavy or soggy frybread – Kailahi’s is both crispy and light as air – by dicing the base into handy bite-size pieces. This way, every single forkful includes all ingredients: soft pintos, tangy red chile-marinated ground beef, grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and onions, shredded lettuce and frybread. It’s a taco salad of sorts, substantial enough for two meals – and Kailahi’s frybread is so good that it’s worth having a pillowy piece for dessert with honey or powdered sugar ($5). Saya’s also serves a mean version of another fusion food classic: Frito pie ($7).

As coronavirus cases spike across New Mexico, the idea of dining out requires more thought and care than ever.

What’s worth going out for?

What can’t you make in your kitchen, and what’s safe to grab and take home?

Birria and Indian tacos are at the top of my current list, and these two trucks are set to make wintry treks down Airport and Cerrillos that much more delicious.

Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos
4 stars
WHERE: 2109 Cerrillos Road
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday closed Monday and Tuesday
Cash only


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.


A tale of two tacos: Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread embrace cross-cultural innovation

In his 2020 book “American Taco,” José R. Ralat uses the Abuelita Principle to explain the quest for “authenticity” when it comes to tacos in the United States. Americans have a bad habit, Ralat says, of comparing every taco they try to the exemplary ones made by a dearly departed grandmother or a long-remembered Juárez hole in the wall.

But really, every recipe evolves along with its environment. Even a taco as iconic to Mexico as al pastor was shaped by the influence of Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s easier to embrace culinary adaptation, no matter what the cuisine, over any abuelita principles. And in Santa Fe, two food trucks – Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos – are churning out a couple of perfectly delicious examples.

At Fusion Tacos, the red truck parked in front of Garcia Tires on Airport Road, owner Perla Ramon has capitalized on a hot food trend that caught fire last year in Southern California and is now sweeping the Southwest – birria tacos. “Birria” refers to the preparation of stewed meat (traditionally goat or lamb, though Ramon’s tacos use beef) that is slow-cooked in an earth oven, a style that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco before it was evolved by Tijuana and Los Angeles vendors in Dutch ovens or slow cookers.

At Fusion Tacos, the quesabirria tacos (cheese and beef) are served with a cup of the same silky broth for dipping purposes. After sharing a family pack (10 tacos for $20 on Taco Tuesdays, with a 16-ounce cup of cilantro-flecked consommé, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, fiery red and green salsas, and two sodas).

“Who doesn’t love a good dunk?” I thought in a George Costanza tone, dipping a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat-and-queso missile into its accompanying broth, not minding the juices that ran down my chin. I thought fondly of Philippe’s French dip sandwiches in LA, wondering if it was perhaps a Mexican cook who originated the roast beef baguettes served with a cup of dipping broth.

Fusion has leaned hard into its name with a menu that is equally decadent (more tacos, tortas, burritos) and healthy (salads, protein bowls, and even a breakfast lineup that includes a keto bowl and a “protein waffle”).

Over the past month or so, Santa Fe social media has been salivating over the arrival of a more local fusion food: Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos. The snazzy new turquoise truck, parked outside O’Reilly Auto Parts on Cerrillos Road, bills itself as “Santa Fe’s first and only Native American food truck.”

Saya’s Indian taco is a taco salad of sorts, and it’s delicious. (Molly Boyle/For the Journal)

Chef owner James Kailahi, whose mother is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, explained his reasoning for starting the truck by saying, “Santa Fe is filled with such extraordinary food from all over the world. And yet we’re surrounded by Native America, and there’s not one Native American eating establishment. It makes no sense.”

Before starting up the truck for its soft opening in Pojoaque, Kailahi cooked and served for years at several area restaurants. He credits chef Clay Bordan of the former Tabla de los Santos at the St. Francis Hotel for his mentorship, though his mother taught him how to make red chile. (“Saya” is a Tewa word that refers to the eldest woman in the family.) In perfecting his Indian taco recipe, he worked with both his mom and his wife, Medina, who was born and raised in San Ildefonso, to get all the elements exactly right.

But he also looked at Indian tacos across the country, trying to figure out how to make the best possible portable meal.

“Let’s be real: It’s a hassle to eat an Indian taco,” Kailahi says. “You have to fight with it, and by the time you’re halfway, you’re either tired or don’t want to eat any more.”

Saya’s serves an Indian taco ($10) that solves the burden of heavy or soggy frybread – Kailahi’s is both crispy and light as air – by dicing the base into handy bite-size pieces. This way, every single forkful includes all ingredients: soft pintos, tangy red chile-marinated ground beef, grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and onions, shredded lettuce and frybread. It’s a taco salad of sorts, substantial enough for two meals – and Kailahi’s frybread is so good that it’s worth having a pillowy piece for dessert with honey or powdered sugar ($5). Saya’s also serves a mean version of another fusion food classic: Frito pie ($7).

As coronavirus cases spike across New Mexico, the idea of dining out requires more thought and care than ever.

What’s worth going out for?

What can’t you make in your kitchen, and what’s safe to grab and take home?

Birria and Indian tacos are at the top of my current list, and these two trucks are set to make wintry treks down Airport and Cerrillos that much more delicious.

Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos
4 stars
WHERE: 2109 Cerrillos Road
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday closed Monday and Tuesday
Cash only


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.


A tale of two tacos: Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread embrace cross-cultural innovation

In his 2020 book “American Taco,” José R. Ralat uses the Abuelita Principle to explain the quest for “authenticity” when it comes to tacos in the United States. Americans have a bad habit, Ralat says, of comparing every taco they try to the exemplary ones made by a dearly departed grandmother or a long-remembered Juárez hole in the wall.

But really, every recipe evolves along with its environment. Even a taco as iconic to Mexico as al pastor was shaped by the influence of Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s easier to embrace culinary adaptation, no matter what the cuisine, over any abuelita principles. And in Santa Fe, two food trucks – Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos – are churning out a couple of perfectly delicious examples.

At Fusion Tacos, the red truck parked in front of Garcia Tires on Airport Road, owner Perla Ramon has capitalized on a hot food trend that caught fire last year in Southern California and is now sweeping the Southwest – birria tacos. “Birria” refers to the preparation of stewed meat (traditionally goat or lamb, though Ramon’s tacos use beef) that is slow-cooked in an earth oven, a style that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco before it was evolved by Tijuana and Los Angeles vendors in Dutch ovens or slow cookers.

At Fusion Tacos, the quesabirria tacos (cheese and beef) are served with a cup of the same silky broth for dipping purposes. After sharing a family pack (10 tacos for $20 on Taco Tuesdays, with a 16-ounce cup of cilantro-flecked consommé, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, fiery red and green salsas, and two sodas).

“Who doesn’t love a good dunk?” I thought in a George Costanza tone, dipping a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat-and-queso missile into its accompanying broth, not minding the juices that ran down my chin. I thought fondly of Philippe’s French dip sandwiches in LA, wondering if it was perhaps a Mexican cook who originated the roast beef baguettes served with a cup of dipping broth.

Fusion has leaned hard into its name with a menu that is equally decadent (more tacos, tortas, burritos) and healthy (salads, protein bowls, and even a breakfast lineup that includes a keto bowl and a “protein waffle”).

Over the past month or so, Santa Fe social media has been salivating over the arrival of a more local fusion food: Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos. The snazzy new turquoise truck, parked outside O’Reilly Auto Parts on Cerrillos Road, bills itself as “Santa Fe’s first and only Native American food truck.”

Saya’s Indian taco is a taco salad of sorts, and it’s delicious. (Molly Boyle/For the Journal)

Chef owner James Kailahi, whose mother is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, explained his reasoning for starting the truck by saying, “Santa Fe is filled with such extraordinary food from all over the world. And yet we’re surrounded by Native America, and there’s not one Native American eating establishment. It makes no sense.”

Before starting up the truck for its soft opening in Pojoaque, Kailahi cooked and served for years at several area restaurants. He credits chef Clay Bordan of the former Tabla de los Santos at the St. Francis Hotel for his mentorship, though his mother taught him how to make red chile. (“Saya” is a Tewa word that refers to the eldest woman in the family.) In perfecting his Indian taco recipe, he worked with both his mom and his wife, Medina, who was born and raised in San Ildefonso, to get all the elements exactly right.

But he also looked at Indian tacos across the country, trying to figure out how to make the best possible portable meal.

“Let’s be real: It’s a hassle to eat an Indian taco,” Kailahi says. “You have to fight with it, and by the time you’re halfway, you’re either tired or don’t want to eat any more.”

Saya’s serves an Indian taco ($10) that solves the burden of heavy or soggy frybread – Kailahi’s is both crispy and light as air – by dicing the base into handy bite-size pieces. This way, every single forkful includes all ingredients: soft pintos, tangy red chile-marinated ground beef, grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and onions, shredded lettuce and frybread. It’s a taco salad of sorts, substantial enough for two meals – and Kailahi’s frybread is so good that it’s worth having a pillowy piece for dessert with honey or powdered sugar ($5). Saya’s also serves a mean version of another fusion food classic: Frito pie ($7).

As coronavirus cases spike across New Mexico, the idea of dining out requires more thought and care than ever.

What’s worth going out for?

What can’t you make in your kitchen, and what’s safe to grab and take home?

Birria and Indian tacos are at the top of my current list, and these two trucks are set to make wintry treks down Airport and Cerrillos that much more delicious.

Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos
4 stars
WHERE: 2109 Cerrillos Road
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday closed Monday and Tuesday
Cash only


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.


A tale of two tacos: Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread embrace cross-cultural innovation

In his 2020 book “American Taco,” José R. Ralat uses the Abuelita Principle to explain the quest for “authenticity” when it comes to tacos in the United States. Americans have a bad habit, Ralat says, of comparing every taco they try to the exemplary ones made by a dearly departed grandmother or a long-remembered Juárez hole in the wall.

But really, every recipe evolves along with its environment. Even a taco as iconic to Mexico as al pastor was shaped by the influence of Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s easier to embrace culinary adaptation, no matter what the cuisine, over any abuelita principles. And in Santa Fe, two food trucks – Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos – are churning out a couple of perfectly delicious examples.

At Fusion Tacos, the red truck parked in front of Garcia Tires on Airport Road, owner Perla Ramon has capitalized on a hot food trend that caught fire last year in Southern California and is now sweeping the Southwest – birria tacos. “Birria” refers to the preparation of stewed meat (traditionally goat or lamb, though Ramon’s tacos use beef) that is slow-cooked in an earth oven, a style that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco before it was evolved by Tijuana and Los Angeles vendors in Dutch ovens or slow cookers.

At Fusion Tacos, the quesabirria tacos (cheese and beef) are served with a cup of the same silky broth for dipping purposes. After sharing a family pack (10 tacos for $20 on Taco Tuesdays, with a 16-ounce cup of cilantro-flecked consommé, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, fiery red and green salsas, and two sodas).

“Who doesn’t love a good dunk?” I thought in a George Costanza tone, dipping a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat-and-queso missile into its accompanying broth, not minding the juices that ran down my chin. I thought fondly of Philippe’s French dip sandwiches in LA, wondering if it was perhaps a Mexican cook who originated the roast beef baguettes served with a cup of dipping broth.

Fusion has leaned hard into its name with a menu that is equally decadent (more tacos, tortas, burritos) and healthy (salads, protein bowls, and even a breakfast lineup that includes a keto bowl and a “protein waffle”).

Over the past month or so, Santa Fe social media has been salivating over the arrival of a more local fusion food: Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos. The snazzy new turquoise truck, parked outside O’Reilly Auto Parts on Cerrillos Road, bills itself as “Santa Fe’s first and only Native American food truck.”

Saya’s Indian taco is a taco salad of sorts, and it’s delicious. (Molly Boyle/For the Journal)

Chef owner James Kailahi, whose mother is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, explained his reasoning for starting the truck by saying, “Santa Fe is filled with such extraordinary food from all over the world. And yet we’re surrounded by Native America, and there’s not one Native American eating establishment. It makes no sense.”

Before starting up the truck for its soft opening in Pojoaque, Kailahi cooked and served for years at several area restaurants. He credits chef Clay Bordan of the former Tabla de los Santos at the St. Francis Hotel for his mentorship, though his mother taught him how to make red chile. (“Saya” is a Tewa word that refers to the eldest woman in the family.) In perfecting his Indian taco recipe, he worked with both his mom and his wife, Medina, who was born and raised in San Ildefonso, to get all the elements exactly right.

But he also looked at Indian tacos across the country, trying to figure out how to make the best possible portable meal.

“Let’s be real: It’s a hassle to eat an Indian taco,” Kailahi says. “You have to fight with it, and by the time you’re halfway, you’re either tired or don’t want to eat any more.”

Saya’s serves an Indian taco ($10) that solves the burden of heavy or soggy frybread – Kailahi’s is both crispy and light as air – by dicing the base into handy bite-size pieces. This way, every single forkful includes all ingredients: soft pintos, tangy red chile-marinated ground beef, grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and onions, shredded lettuce and frybread. It’s a taco salad of sorts, substantial enough for two meals – and Kailahi’s frybread is so good that it’s worth having a pillowy piece for dessert with honey or powdered sugar ($5). Saya’s also serves a mean version of another fusion food classic: Frito pie ($7).

As coronavirus cases spike across New Mexico, the idea of dining out requires more thought and care than ever.

What’s worth going out for?

What can’t you make in your kitchen, and what’s safe to grab and take home?

Birria and Indian tacos are at the top of my current list, and these two trucks are set to make wintry treks down Airport and Cerrillos that much more delicious.

Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos
4 stars
WHERE: 2109 Cerrillos Road
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday closed Monday and Tuesday
Cash only


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.


A tale of two tacos: Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread embrace cross-cultural innovation

In his 2020 book “American Taco,” José R. Ralat uses the Abuelita Principle to explain the quest for “authenticity” when it comes to tacos in the United States. Americans have a bad habit, Ralat says, of comparing every taco they try to the exemplary ones made by a dearly departed grandmother or a long-remembered Juárez hole in the wall.

But really, every recipe evolves along with its environment. Even a taco as iconic to Mexico as al pastor was shaped by the influence of Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s easier to embrace culinary adaptation, no matter what the cuisine, over any abuelita principles. And in Santa Fe, two food trucks – Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos – are churning out a couple of perfectly delicious examples.

At Fusion Tacos, the red truck parked in front of Garcia Tires on Airport Road, owner Perla Ramon has capitalized on a hot food trend that caught fire last year in Southern California and is now sweeping the Southwest – birria tacos. “Birria” refers to the preparation of stewed meat (traditionally goat or lamb, though Ramon’s tacos use beef) that is slow-cooked in an earth oven, a style that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco before it was evolved by Tijuana and Los Angeles vendors in Dutch ovens or slow cookers.

At Fusion Tacos, the quesabirria tacos (cheese and beef) are served with a cup of the same silky broth for dipping purposes. After sharing a family pack (10 tacos for $20 on Taco Tuesdays, with a 16-ounce cup of cilantro-flecked consommé, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, fiery red and green salsas, and two sodas).

“Who doesn’t love a good dunk?” I thought in a George Costanza tone, dipping a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat-and-queso missile into its accompanying broth, not minding the juices that ran down my chin. I thought fondly of Philippe’s French dip sandwiches in LA, wondering if it was perhaps a Mexican cook who originated the roast beef baguettes served with a cup of dipping broth.

Fusion has leaned hard into its name with a menu that is equally decadent (more tacos, tortas, burritos) and healthy (salads, protein bowls, and even a breakfast lineup that includes a keto bowl and a “protein waffle”).

Over the past month or so, Santa Fe social media has been salivating over the arrival of a more local fusion food: Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos. The snazzy new turquoise truck, parked outside O’Reilly Auto Parts on Cerrillos Road, bills itself as “Santa Fe’s first and only Native American food truck.”

Saya’s Indian taco is a taco salad of sorts, and it’s delicious. (Molly Boyle/For the Journal)

Chef owner James Kailahi, whose mother is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, explained his reasoning for starting the truck by saying, “Santa Fe is filled with such extraordinary food from all over the world. And yet we’re surrounded by Native America, and there’s not one Native American eating establishment. It makes no sense.”

Before starting up the truck for its soft opening in Pojoaque, Kailahi cooked and served for years at several area restaurants. He credits chef Clay Bordan of the former Tabla de los Santos at the St. Francis Hotel for his mentorship, though his mother taught him how to make red chile. (“Saya” is a Tewa word that refers to the eldest woman in the family.) In perfecting his Indian taco recipe, he worked with both his mom and his wife, Medina, who was born and raised in San Ildefonso, to get all the elements exactly right.

But he also looked at Indian tacos across the country, trying to figure out how to make the best possible portable meal.

“Let’s be real: It’s a hassle to eat an Indian taco,” Kailahi says. “You have to fight with it, and by the time you’re halfway, you’re either tired or don’t want to eat any more.”

Saya’s serves an Indian taco ($10) that solves the burden of heavy or soggy frybread – Kailahi’s is both crispy and light as air – by dicing the base into handy bite-size pieces. This way, every single forkful includes all ingredients: soft pintos, tangy red chile-marinated ground beef, grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and onions, shredded lettuce and frybread. It’s a taco salad of sorts, substantial enough for two meals – and Kailahi’s frybread is so good that it’s worth having a pillowy piece for dessert with honey or powdered sugar ($5). Saya’s also serves a mean version of another fusion food classic: Frito pie ($7).

As coronavirus cases spike across New Mexico, the idea of dining out requires more thought and care than ever.

What’s worth going out for?

What can’t you make in your kitchen, and what’s safe to grab and take home?

Birria and Indian tacos are at the top of my current list, and these two trucks are set to make wintry treks down Airport and Cerrillos that much more delicious.

Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos
4 stars
WHERE: 2109 Cerrillos Road
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday closed Monday and Tuesday
Cash only


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.


A tale of two tacos: Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread embrace cross-cultural innovation

In his 2020 book “American Taco,” José R. Ralat uses the Abuelita Principle to explain the quest for “authenticity” when it comes to tacos in the United States. Americans have a bad habit, Ralat says, of comparing every taco they try to the exemplary ones made by a dearly departed grandmother or a long-remembered Juárez hole in the wall.

But really, every recipe evolves along with its environment. Even a taco as iconic to Mexico as al pastor was shaped by the influence of Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s easier to embrace culinary adaptation, no matter what the cuisine, over any abuelita principles. And in Santa Fe, two food trucks – Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos – are churning out a couple of perfectly delicious examples.

At Fusion Tacos, the red truck parked in front of Garcia Tires on Airport Road, owner Perla Ramon has capitalized on a hot food trend that caught fire last year in Southern California and is now sweeping the Southwest – birria tacos. “Birria” refers to the preparation of stewed meat (traditionally goat or lamb, though Ramon’s tacos use beef) that is slow-cooked in an earth oven, a style that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco before it was evolved by Tijuana and Los Angeles vendors in Dutch ovens or slow cookers.

At Fusion Tacos, the quesabirria tacos (cheese and beef) are served with a cup of the same silky broth for dipping purposes. After sharing a family pack (10 tacos for $20 on Taco Tuesdays, with a 16-ounce cup of cilantro-flecked consommé, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, fiery red and green salsas, and two sodas).

“Who doesn’t love a good dunk?” I thought in a George Costanza tone, dipping a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat-and-queso missile into its accompanying broth, not minding the juices that ran down my chin. I thought fondly of Philippe’s French dip sandwiches in LA, wondering if it was perhaps a Mexican cook who originated the roast beef baguettes served with a cup of dipping broth.

Fusion has leaned hard into its name with a menu that is equally decadent (more tacos, tortas, burritos) and healthy (salads, protein bowls, and even a breakfast lineup that includes a keto bowl and a “protein waffle”).

Over the past month or so, Santa Fe social media has been salivating over the arrival of a more local fusion food: Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos. The snazzy new turquoise truck, parked outside O’Reilly Auto Parts on Cerrillos Road, bills itself as “Santa Fe’s first and only Native American food truck.”

Saya’s Indian taco is a taco salad of sorts, and it’s delicious. (Molly Boyle/For the Journal)

Chef owner James Kailahi, whose mother is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, explained his reasoning for starting the truck by saying, “Santa Fe is filled with such extraordinary food from all over the world. And yet we’re surrounded by Native America, and there’s not one Native American eating establishment. It makes no sense.”

Before starting up the truck for its soft opening in Pojoaque, Kailahi cooked and served for years at several area restaurants. He credits chef Clay Bordan of the former Tabla de los Santos at the St. Francis Hotel for his mentorship, though his mother taught him how to make red chile. (“Saya” is a Tewa word that refers to the eldest woman in the family.) In perfecting his Indian taco recipe, he worked with both his mom and his wife, Medina, who was born and raised in San Ildefonso, to get all the elements exactly right.

But he also looked at Indian tacos across the country, trying to figure out how to make the best possible portable meal.

“Let’s be real: It’s a hassle to eat an Indian taco,” Kailahi says. “You have to fight with it, and by the time you’re halfway, you’re either tired or don’t want to eat any more.”

Saya’s serves an Indian taco ($10) that solves the burden of heavy or soggy frybread – Kailahi’s is both crispy and light as air – by dicing the base into handy bite-size pieces. This way, every single forkful includes all ingredients: soft pintos, tangy red chile-marinated ground beef, grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and onions, shredded lettuce and frybread. It’s a taco salad of sorts, substantial enough for two meals – and Kailahi’s frybread is so good that it’s worth having a pillowy piece for dessert with honey or powdered sugar ($5). Saya’s also serves a mean version of another fusion food classic: Frito pie ($7).

As coronavirus cases spike across New Mexico, the idea of dining out requires more thought and care than ever.

What’s worth going out for?

What can’t you make in your kitchen, and what’s safe to grab and take home?

Birria and Indian tacos are at the top of my current list, and these two trucks are set to make wintry treks down Airport and Cerrillos that much more delicious.

Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos
4 stars
WHERE: 2109 Cerrillos Road
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday closed Monday and Tuesday
Cash only


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.


A tale of two tacos: Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread embrace cross-cultural innovation

In his 2020 book “American Taco,” José R. Ralat uses the Abuelita Principle to explain the quest for “authenticity” when it comes to tacos in the United States. Americans have a bad habit, Ralat says, of comparing every taco they try to the exemplary ones made by a dearly departed grandmother or a long-remembered Juárez hole in the wall.

But really, every recipe evolves along with its environment. Even a taco as iconic to Mexico as al pastor was shaped by the influence of Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s easier to embrace culinary adaptation, no matter what the cuisine, over any abuelita principles. And in Santa Fe, two food trucks – Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos – are churning out a couple of perfectly delicious examples.

At Fusion Tacos, the red truck parked in front of Garcia Tires on Airport Road, owner Perla Ramon has capitalized on a hot food trend that caught fire last year in Southern California and is now sweeping the Southwest – birria tacos. “Birria” refers to the preparation of stewed meat (traditionally goat or lamb, though Ramon’s tacos use beef) that is slow-cooked in an earth oven, a style that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco before it was evolved by Tijuana and Los Angeles vendors in Dutch ovens or slow cookers.

At Fusion Tacos, the quesabirria tacos (cheese and beef) are served with a cup of the same silky broth for dipping purposes. After sharing a family pack (10 tacos for $20 on Taco Tuesdays, with a 16-ounce cup of cilantro-flecked consommé, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, fiery red and green salsas, and two sodas).

“Who doesn’t love a good dunk?” I thought in a George Costanza tone, dipping a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat-and-queso missile into its accompanying broth, not minding the juices that ran down my chin. I thought fondly of Philippe’s French dip sandwiches in LA, wondering if it was perhaps a Mexican cook who originated the roast beef baguettes served with a cup of dipping broth.

Fusion has leaned hard into its name with a menu that is equally decadent (more tacos, tortas, burritos) and healthy (salads, protein bowls, and even a breakfast lineup that includes a keto bowl and a “protein waffle”).

Over the past month or so, Santa Fe social media has been salivating over the arrival of a more local fusion food: Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos. The snazzy new turquoise truck, parked outside O’Reilly Auto Parts on Cerrillos Road, bills itself as “Santa Fe’s first and only Native American food truck.”

Saya’s Indian taco is a taco salad of sorts, and it’s delicious. (Molly Boyle/For the Journal)

Chef owner James Kailahi, whose mother is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, explained his reasoning for starting the truck by saying, “Santa Fe is filled with such extraordinary food from all over the world. And yet we’re surrounded by Native America, and there’s not one Native American eating establishment. It makes no sense.”

Before starting up the truck for its soft opening in Pojoaque, Kailahi cooked and served for years at several area restaurants. He credits chef Clay Bordan of the former Tabla de los Santos at the St. Francis Hotel for his mentorship, though his mother taught him how to make red chile. (“Saya” is a Tewa word that refers to the eldest woman in the family.) In perfecting his Indian taco recipe, he worked with both his mom and his wife, Medina, who was born and raised in San Ildefonso, to get all the elements exactly right.

But he also looked at Indian tacos across the country, trying to figure out how to make the best possible portable meal.

“Let’s be real: It’s a hassle to eat an Indian taco,” Kailahi says. “You have to fight with it, and by the time you’re halfway, you’re either tired or don’t want to eat any more.”

Saya’s serves an Indian taco ($10) that solves the burden of heavy or soggy frybread – Kailahi’s is both crispy and light as air – by dicing the base into handy bite-size pieces. This way, every single forkful includes all ingredients: soft pintos, tangy red chile-marinated ground beef, grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and onions, shredded lettuce and frybread. It’s a taco salad of sorts, substantial enough for two meals – and Kailahi’s frybread is so good that it’s worth having a pillowy piece for dessert with honey or powdered sugar ($5). Saya’s also serves a mean version of another fusion food classic: Frito pie ($7).

As coronavirus cases spike across New Mexico, the idea of dining out requires more thought and care than ever.

What’s worth going out for?

What can’t you make in your kitchen, and what’s safe to grab and take home?

Birria and Indian tacos are at the top of my current list, and these two trucks are set to make wintry treks down Airport and Cerrillos that much more delicious.

Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos
4 stars
WHERE: 2109 Cerrillos Road
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday closed Monday and Tuesday
Cash only


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.


A tale of two tacos: Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread embrace cross-cultural innovation

In his 2020 book “American Taco,” José R. Ralat uses the Abuelita Principle to explain the quest for “authenticity” when it comes to tacos in the United States. Americans have a bad habit, Ralat says, of comparing every taco they try to the exemplary ones made by a dearly departed grandmother or a long-remembered Juárez hole in the wall.

But really, every recipe evolves along with its environment. Even a taco as iconic to Mexico as al pastor was shaped by the influence of Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s easier to embrace culinary adaptation, no matter what the cuisine, over any abuelita principles. And in Santa Fe, two food trucks – Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos – are churning out a couple of perfectly delicious examples.

At Fusion Tacos, the red truck parked in front of Garcia Tires on Airport Road, owner Perla Ramon has capitalized on a hot food trend that caught fire last year in Southern California and is now sweeping the Southwest – birria tacos. “Birria” refers to the preparation of stewed meat (traditionally goat or lamb, though Ramon’s tacos use beef) that is slow-cooked in an earth oven, a style that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco before it was evolved by Tijuana and Los Angeles vendors in Dutch ovens or slow cookers.

At Fusion Tacos, the quesabirria tacos (cheese and beef) are served with a cup of the same silky broth for dipping purposes. After sharing a family pack (10 tacos for $20 on Taco Tuesdays, with a 16-ounce cup of cilantro-flecked consommé, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, fiery red and green salsas, and two sodas).

“Who doesn’t love a good dunk?” I thought in a George Costanza tone, dipping a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat-and-queso missile into its accompanying broth, not minding the juices that ran down my chin. I thought fondly of Philippe’s French dip sandwiches in LA, wondering if it was perhaps a Mexican cook who originated the roast beef baguettes served with a cup of dipping broth.

Fusion has leaned hard into its name with a menu that is equally decadent (more tacos, tortas, burritos) and healthy (salads, protein bowls, and even a breakfast lineup that includes a keto bowl and a “protein waffle”).

Over the past month or so, Santa Fe social media has been salivating over the arrival of a more local fusion food: Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos. The snazzy new turquoise truck, parked outside O’Reilly Auto Parts on Cerrillos Road, bills itself as “Santa Fe’s first and only Native American food truck.”

Saya’s Indian taco is a taco salad of sorts, and it’s delicious. (Molly Boyle/For the Journal)

Chef owner James Kailahi, whose mother is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, explained his reasoning for starting the truck by saying, “Santa Fe is filled with such extraordinary food from all over the world. And yet we’re surrounded by Native America, and there’s not one Native American eating establishment. It makes no sense.”

Before starting up the truck for its soft opening in Pojoaque, Kailahi cooked and served for years at several area restaurants. He credits chef Clay Bordan of the former Tabla de los Santos at the St. Francis Hotel for his mentorship, though his mother taught him how to make red chile. (“Saya” is a Tewa word that refers to the eldest woman in the family.) In perfecting his Indian taco recipe, he worked with both his mom and his wife, Medina, who was born and raised in San Ildefonso, to get all the elements exactly right.

But he also looked at Indian tacos across the country, trying to figure out how to make the best possible portable meal.

“Let’s be real: It’s a hassle to eat an Indian taco,” Kailahi says. “You have to fight with it, and by the time you’re halfway, you’re either tired or don’t want to eat any more.”

Saya’s serves an Indian taco ($10) that solves the burden of heavy or soggy frybread – Kailahi’s is both crispy and light as air – by dicing the base into handy bite-size pieces. This way, every single forkful includes all ingredients: soft pintos, tangy red chile-marinated ground beef, grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and onions, shredded lettuce and frybread. It’s a taco salad of sorts, substantial enough for two meals – and Kailahi’s frybread is so good that it’s worth having a pillowy piece for dessert with honey or powdered sugar ($5). Saya’s also serves a mean version of another fusion food classic: Frito pie ($7).

As coronavirus cases spike across New Mexico, the idea of dining out requires more thought and care than ever.

What’s worth going out for?

What can’t you make in your kitchen, and what’s safe to grab and take home?

Birria and Indian tacos are at the top of my current list, and these two trucks are set to make wintry treks down Airport and Cerrillos that much more delicious.

Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos
4 stars
WHERE: 2109 Cerrillos Road
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday closed Monday and Tuesday
Cash only


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.


A tale of two tacos: Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread embrace cross-cultural innovation

In his 2020 book “American Taco,” José R. Ralat uses the Abuelita Principle to explain the quest for “authenticity” when it comes to tacos in the United States. Americans have a bad habit, Ralat says, of comparing every taco they try to the exemplary ones made by a dearly departed grandmother or a long-remembered Juárez hole in the wall.

But really, every recipe evolves along with its environment. Even a taco as iconic to Mexico as al pastor was shaped by the influence of Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s easier to embrace culinary adaptation, no matter what the cuisine, over any abuelita principles. And in Santa Fe, two food trucks – Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos – are churning out a couple of perfectly delicious examples.

At Fusion Tacos, the red truck parked in front of Garcia Tires on Airport Road, owner Perla Ramon has capitalized on a hot food trend that caught fire last year in Southern California and is now sweeping the Southwest – birria tacos. “Birria” refers to the preparation of stewed meat (traditionally goat or lamb, though Ramon’s tacos use beef) that is slow-cooked in an earth oven, a style that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco before it was evolved by Tijuana and Los Angeles vendors in Dutch ovens or slow cookers.

At Fusion Tacos, the quesabirria tacos (cheese and beef) are served with a cup of the same silky broth for dipping purposes. After sharing a family pack (10 tacos for $20 on Taco Tuesdays, with a 16-ounce cup of cilantro-flecked consommé, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, fiery red and green salsas, and two sodas).

“Who doesn’t love a good dunk?” I thought in a George Costanza tone, dipping a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat-and-queso missile into its accompanying broth, not minding the juices that ran down my chin. I thought fondly of Philippe’s French dip sandwiches in LA, wondering if it was perhaps a Mexican cook who originated the roast beef baguettes served with a cup of dipping broth.

Fusion has leaned hard into its name with a menu that is equally decadent (more tacos, tortas, burritos) and healthy (salads, protein bowls, and even a breakfast lineup that includes a keto bowl and a “protein waffle”).

Over the past month or so, Santa Fe social media has been salivating over the arrival of a more local fusion food: Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos. The snazzy new turquoise truck, parked outside O’Reilly Auto Parts on Cerrillos Road, bills itself as “Santa Fe’s first and only Native American food truck.”

Saya’s Indian taco is a taco salad of sorts, and it’s delicious. (Molly Boyle/For the Journal)

Chef owner James Kailahi, whose mother is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, explained his reasoning for starting the truck by saying, “Santa Fe is filled with such extraordinary food from all over the world. And yet we’re surrounded by Native America, and there’s not one Native American eating establishment. It makes no sense.”

Before starting up the truck for its soft opening in Pojoaque, Kailahi cooked and served for years at several area restaurants. He credits chef Clay Bordan of the former Tabla de los Santos at the St. Francis Hotel for his mentorship, though his mother taught him how to make red chile. (“Saya” is a Tewa word that refers to the eldest woman in the family.) In perfecting his Indian taco recipe, he worked with both his mom and his wife, Medina, who was born and raised in San Ildefonso, to get all the elements exactly right.

But he also looked at Indian tacos across the country, trying to figure out how to make the best possible portable meal.

“Let’s be real: It’s a hassle to eat an Indian taco,” Kailahi says. “You have to fight with it, and by the time you’re halfway, you’re either tired or don’t want to eat any more.”

Saya’s serves an Indian taco ($10) that solves the burden of heavy or soggy frybread – Kailahi’s is both crispy and light as air – by dicing the base into handy bite-size pieces. This way, every single forkful includes all ingredients: soft pintos, tangy red chile-marinated ground beef, grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and onions, shredded lettuce and frybread. It’s a taco salad of sorts, substantial enough for two meals – and Kailahi’s frybread is so good that it’s worth having a pillowy piece for dessert with honey or powdered sugar ($5). Saya’s also serves a mean version of another fusion food classic: Frito pie ($7).

As coronavirus cases spike across New Mexico, the idea of dining out requires more thought and care than ever.

What’s worth going out for?

What can’t you make in your kitchen, and what’s safe to grab and take home?

Birria and Indian tacos are at the top of my current list, and these two trucks are set to make wintry treks down Airport and Cerrillos that much more delicious.

Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos
4 stars
WHERE: 2109 Cerrillos Road
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday closed Monday and Tuesday
Cash only


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.


A tale of two tacos: Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread embrace cross-cultural innovation

In his 2020 book “American Taco,” José R. Ralat uses the Abuelita Principle to explain the quest for “authenticity” when it comes to tacos in the United States. Americans have a bad habit, Ralat says, of comparing every taco they try to the exemplary ones made by a dearly departed grandmother or a long-remembered Juárez hole in the wall.

But really, every recipe evolves along with its environment. Even a taco as iconic to Mexico as al pastor was shaped by the influence of Middle Eastern immigrants.

It’s easier to embrace culinary adaptation, no matter what the cuisine, over any abuelita principles. And in Santa Fe, two food trucks – Fusion Tacos and Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos – are churning out a couple of perfectly delicious examples.

At Fusion Tacos, the red truck parked in front of Garcia Tires on Airport Road, owner Perla Ramon has capitalized on a hot food trend that caught fire last year in Southern California and is now sweeping the Southwest – birria tacos. “Birria” refers to the preparation of stewed meat (traditionally goat or lamb, though Ramon’s tacos use beef) that is slow-cooked in an earth oven, a style that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco before it was evolved by Tijuana and Los Angeles vendors in Dutch ovens or slow cookers.

At Fusion Tacos, the quesabirria tacos (cheese and beef) are served with a cup of the same silky broth for dipping purposes. After sharing a family pack (10 tacos for $20 on Taco Tuesdays, with a 16-ounce cup of cilantro-flecked consommé, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, fiery red and green salsas, and two sodas).

“Who doesn’t love a good dunk?” I thought in a George Costanza tone, dipping a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat-and-queso missile into its accompanying broth, not minding the juices that ran down my chin. I thought fondly of Philippe’s French dip sandwiches in LA, wondering if it was perhaps a Mexican cook who originated the roast beef baguettes served with a cup of dipping broth.

Fusion has leaned hard into its name with a menu that is equally decadent (more tacos, tortas, burritos) and healthy (salads, protein bowls, and even a breakfast lineup that includes a keto bowl and a “protein waffle”).

Over the past month or so, Santa Fe social media has been salivating over the arrival of a more local fusion food: Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos. The snazzy new turquoise truck, parked outside O’Reilly Auto Parts on Cerrillos Road, bills itself as “Santa Fe’s first and only Native American food truck.”

Saya’s Indian taco is a taco salad of sorts, and it’s delicious. (Molly Boyle/For the Journal)

Chef owner James Kailahi, whose mother is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, explained his reasoning for starting the truck by saying, “Santa Fe is filled with such extraordinary food from all over the world. And yet we’re surrounded by Native America, and there’s not one Native American eating establishment. It makes no sense.”

Before starting up the truck for its soft opening in Pojoaque, Kailahi cooked and served for years at several area restaurants. He credits chef Clay Bordan of the former Tabla de los Santos at the St. Francis Hotel for his mentorship, though his mother taught him how to make red chile. (“Saya” is a Tewa word that refers to the eldest woman in the family.) In perfecting his Indian taco recipe, he worked with both his mom and his wife, Medina, who was born and raised in San Ildefonso, to get all the elements exactly right.

But he also looked at Indian tacos across the country, trying to figure out how to make the best possible portable meal.

“Let’s be real: It’s a hassle to eat an Indian taco,” Kailahi says. “You have to fight with it, and by the time you’re halfway, you’re either tired or don’t want to eat any more.”

Saya’s serves an Indian taco ($10) that solves the burden of heavy or soggy frybread – Kailahi’s is both crispy and light as air – by dicing the base into handy bite-size pieces. This way, every single forkful includes all ingredients: soft pintos, tangy red chile-marinated ground beef, grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and onions, shredded lettuce and frybread. It’s a taco salad of sorts, substantial enough for two meals – and Kailahi’s frybread is so good that it’s worth having a pillowy piece for dessert with honey or powdered sugar ($5). Saya’s also serves a mean version of another fusion food classic: Frito pie ($7).

As coronavirus cases spike across New Mexico, the idea of dining out requires more thought and care than ever.

What’s worth going out for?

What can’t you make in your kitchen, and what’s safe to grab and take home?

Birria and Indian tacos are at the top of my current list, and these two trucks are set to make wintry treks down Airport and Cerrillos that much more delicious.

Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos
4 stars
WHERE: 2109 Cerrillos Road
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday closed Monday and Tuesday
Cash only


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.