To see Callie’s Galley motoring down the road or parked at one of its several regular locations is to have a comedic encounter with an archetypal beast.
The Cajun- and New Orleans-inspired food truck bloats at the sides like a leviathan mollusk stuffed into a diminutive shell. The cartoonishly painted beast sags so low on its rear springs that food must be prepared at an angle that recalls a ship in heavy seas. Well-thumbed paperbacks litter the dashboard and a forever-belching generator toils appropriately at the anal-end of the whole cumbersome contraption.
The fare, too, sometimes has primeval implications. Catfish and oyster po’ boys, crab and crawfish bisque, crawfish étouffée—they’re all bottom-feeding monsters churned out in hearty portions.
But that fearsome and elemental menu pulls the body, with cellular urgency, toward a more basic, subsistent past and into a kind of unabashed satisfaction. The salty rice, the dashes of saffron, the tender stabs of okra that punctuate Callie’s meals all have a way of priming the mind for a barely remembered romance of a fantasy prior life of ports, docks, plantations and primitive seduction.
Callie’s Galley has loitered out on Old Las Vegas Highway for the last decade or so, and southsiders’ pangs for the flavor of New Orleans had to be weighed against a considerable drive. People who travel by pedal power had to be even more motivated. But the galley has become increasingly mobile, despite the visual evidence that it’s unlikely to travel too far. Callie now motors her ponderous monster through the St. Michael’s Drive area during lunch on Wednesdays and weighs anchor at the Santa Fe Auto Park on Fridays at lunch. She spends the weekends over at the flea market at the Downs at Santa Fe, while she rolls back to the Old Las Vegas Highway perch Wednesday through Friday to dole out jambalaya, and red beans and rice to the masses.
If you do have masses to feed, all the staples (bisque, étouffée, gumbo, jambalaya, beans and slaw) are available in pint and quart sizes. For vegetarians, a dish of portobello mushrooms with walnuts and saffron rice does not disappoint, but engenders the same kind of inspired food coma that a whirlwind of chicken and sausage or a flurry of Caribbean shrimp does. I try not to buy pork these days without knowing exactly where it comes from, but the barbecue pork sandwich at Callie’s strikes just the right note of spicy disintegration to push me off course.
Callie’s Galley was voted one of Santa Fe’s top three favorite food carts in 2008 by SFR readers and still proudly flies its Best Of flag, T-shirts and trophy. That doesn’t sway our review, but it’s a good reminder that SFR’s readers often know exactly where to find the most heartening, affordable and strangely delectable foodstuffs.
If business picks up—beyond its already busy pace—for Callie’s Galley, maybe she’ll do something about that sagging suspension and the paint job that’s increasingly in need of an overhaul. On the other hand, if she were forced to cook on level ground, the gumbo might never taste the same.
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