Food Trucks

Get a Taste of Oaxaca From Food Truck La Reyna Del Sur

The tlayuda from La Renya Del Sur.
The tlayuda from La Renya Del Sur. Chris Byard
Before opening our 2022 pick for Best New Restaurant, La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal, and snagging a James Beard Award nomination for his Sunday-only Borrego Negro, chef Jose Avila ran a food truck called X'Tabai Yucateco. It served traditional Mayan recipes made using pre-Hispanic techniques.

Avila's close friend, chef Rubén Hernández Barrios, helped open the truck, and the two worked together for several years. When Avila opened La Diabla last year, he offered Hernández Barrios the opportunity to take over the truck, which the chef immediately seized.

A native of Mier y Terán, a small town of around 400 people two hours outside of the city of Tlaxiaco in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Hernández Barrios noticed a lack of authentic Oaxacan cuisine in Denver and desperately wanted to provide people a taste of his home.
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Rubén Hernández Barrios launched La Reyna Del Sur earlier this year.
Chris Byard

With that inspiration, he debuted the new truck about four months ago, naming it La Reyna Del Sur, "the queen of the south," an homage to his home and mother. "It refers to a woman from the south of Mexico," he explains. "The name inspired me to represent my mother because of the style and technique that she used to cook. I saw that as a child, and I would like to be able to maintain those techniques in our Oaxacan kitchen."

Familiarity with Oaxaca has increased in the United States in recent years thanks to the growing popularity of the agave spirit mezcal. As a result, people are learning more about the region's cuisine, as well, but in Denver, Hernández Barrios is one of the few leading that charge.

Traditional Oaxacan food typically requires countless hours of preparation; the pozole mixteco is a great example of this. "In Mexico, we have two different pozoles," Hernández Barrios explains. "In Oaxaca, we make it with mole amarillo or amarillito [yellow mole], one of the seven moles from Oaxaca. ... The mole takes a long time. When I make the mole, I have maybe five to six hours to make our family's recipe." The result is a pozole with a slightly yellow hue that is rich with layers of flavor.
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Pozole mixteco is a Oaxacan specialty.
Chris Byard

Like the pozole, tlayudas are a Oaxacan specialty. "When Oaxacans talk about food from home, they all mention tlayudas," Hernández Barrios says. "It's a large tostada that we cover with a spread of black beans and then add protein. Traditional is chorizo and top with avocados, tomatoes, onions, cilantro,and Oaxacan cheese, then fold in half. If you visit us or go to Oaxaca, I recommend you try tlayudas."

Also on the menu: cemitas, a Oaxacan-style torta sandwich. Cemita refers to both the prepared dish as well as he roll it's served on — Hernández Barrios gets his from a local baker who is also a Oaxacan native. Tacos made with corn tortillas are on offer, too, and all of the truck's dishes come with a choice of protein; options include barbacoa, pollo, hongos (mushrooms), cecina (a cured meat) or chorizo.

La Reyna del Sur operates Wednesday through Sunday at a variety of locations. Follow it on Instagram @lareynadenver to find out where it's serving.
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Christopher Byard, a transplant from Alabama, arrived in Colorado in 2010 years ago and never looked back. Having previously worked at the Kitchen and Tavernetta, he developed a love for Denver hospitality. Currently, he maintains ties with the community and shares his love for hospitality as a co-host of the podcast Stoned Appetit.