Tacos and Tequila
The fabulous cocktails, cool atmosphere, and plenty of garage parking will make this a favorite spot for meeting friends for drinks
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., July 16, 2010
Tacos and Tequila507 Pressler, 436-8226
Monday-Thursday, 11am-11pm; Friday- Saturday, 11am-12mid; Sunday, 9am-11pm
When I heard that Tacos and Tequila was opening with chef Alma Alcocer-Thomas at the helm in the kitchen, I imagined a cantina-style Mexican eatery serving a variety of tacos. The menu turned out to have a Southwestern influence instead, which isn't entirely surprising, given Alcocer-Thomas' 15 years of experience at Jeffrey's. The menu is the same for lunch and dinner, centered on marinated, grilled proteins served in a variety of combinations and presentations. Diners can choose tacos or skewers served with corn or flour tortillas or burritos, wraps, or salads. Choices include grilled skirt steak with a chile baste, chicken with chipotle-ginger glaze, red adobo shrimp, Southwestern vegetables with balsamic marinade, corn-crusted chicken with coriander and pickled red onions, pulled barbecue pork, and Korean-style beef short ribs.
The modern, open floor space is very welcoming, exuding a cool yet neighborly vibe. The freestanding square bar is outfitted with 100-plus tequilas in all price ranges, lining the shelves of a striking rebar fixture that hangs from the ceiling. The north wall boasts two flat-screens projecting local and national video art, and the open kitchen has a sit-down bar for those who like to dine close to the action.
The cocktails from Tacos and Tequila's enticing list are made with fresh-squeezed juices and fruit purees, using only seasonal flavors, local when possible. From the permanent menu, we loved the cucumber-jalapeño margarita ($9.50) made with 1800 Silver, fresh cucumber muddled with jalapeño, and fresh-squeezed lime juice. The Modern Paloma ($10.50) is a take on my favorite tequila cocktail with the addition of fresh ruby-red grapefruit to the grapefruit soda and lime. There are also three taps of ice-cold tequila, including a featured tequila that changes weekly and is served straight up or in a special cocktail blended with seasonal fruit (on a recent visit it was honeydew-avocado-lime, mmmmm!). The other two are infusions created by bar manager Shelby Lynne Erickson. Examples include pineapple-ginger, organic green tea with fresh peaches and apricots, and chocolate-guajillo. As impressed as I was with the cocktails, I was disappointed by the sangrita, which was nothing but bottled Bloody Mary mix and orange juice. With such amazing attention to the quality of cocktail ingredients, I'd like to see a little more love toward the sangrita.
On my first visit, we were welcomed with a paper bag full of piping hot sweet-potato chips served with a trio of homemade salsas: an avocado tomatillo, a smoky and chunky tomato, and a guajillo chile mayonnaise. The TNT signature Good Karma Guacamole ($8.50) is freshly made table-side and is the best-tasting guacamole I've had at a restaurant in town, and TNT donates 50 cents from every order to support the local farm group Urban Roots. The specialty platters ($11) are good for tasting a variety of meats. The taco platter comes with three tacos and a choice of sides; mine was the ginger rice (ginger is neither a Mexican nor Southwestern spice, but it's featured prominently on the menu). I particularly liked the Korean short rib and the barbecue pulled pork tacos. The mixed skewer platter comes with steak, chicken, and shrimp skewers with tortillas and a sweet corn and masa pudding. It also comes with Chimayo market corn, served on the cob and heavily seasoned with mild chile powder, spices, and grated cheese. In general, I found most of the glazes and marinades to be on the sweet side, and my palate tired of the sameness after a while.
On a happy hour visit, our food experience was not as good. The sweet potato chips arrived cold, limp, and stale; I sent them back and was given commercial tortilla chips instead. The queso flight ($5) offers three small servings of your choice of flavored quesos. Those I picked – beef chorizo and artichoke spinach – are the same regular queso with a tiny portion of each topping. They were runny and tasted suspiciously like condensed cream of celery soup. Not the best I've had, by far. The shrimp in the ceviche ($9) was not marinated in lime juice (therefore it should not be called ceviche), but rather it was overboiled and rubbery, tossed with cooked pineapple chunks in a spicy sauce that was almost sticky sweet. We hated it. Luckily, the free quesadilla bar that's available during happy hour, 4-6:30pm, came through with crispy flour tortilla quesadillas filled with sautéed mushrooms, chopped steak, and pulled pork. And at the end of this meal, I liked the push-pop made especially for TNT by Dallas' Dude, Sweet Chocolate: an apricot mole ice cream with Chubby Nuts, which are macadamia nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and soy nuts – tasty and innovative.
While the food here is not entirely to my taste, the fabulous cocktails, cool atmosphere, and plenty of garage parking will make this a favorite spot for meeting friends for drinks all the same.