In the not too distant past, a millennial hipster woke up with a craft beer hangover and said aloud, “On this day, I want an epic taco filled with a fried chicken leg, elevated with pineapple, copious amounts of artisanal cheese and baptized in barbecue sauce!” With that, a new breed of taco came to fruition, completely obliterating hundreds of years of Mexican tradition. I hope Instagram food porn was worth that.
Though Dallas is full of authentic taquerias, the city has also embraced the "novelty taco." On the front line of this taco movement was Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. Meh, moving on. Some tacos from these menus are so far gone from traditional, they resemble tacos on acid. Or even tacos in bedazzled tattoo shirts (remember Rock n’ Taco in Uptown? Yeah, I wish I didn’t either).
With that brief and extremely accurate history lesson, let’s take a step into Dallas’ novelty taco scene as we prepare for the Observer's Tacolandia fest at City Hall Plaza on October 17. Torchy's and Velvet Taco will be among the taquerias pumping out the goods. We can't promise these specific tacos will be on the menu, but you never know.
This Greenville Avenue original blessed us with tacos out of a converted gas station starting in 2010. It has the most even-tempered menu of the novelty taco restaurants. Achiote pork is its namesake protein, and when you order the Rusty Taco you'll get pork, plus onion, cilantro and pineapple — it’s easily a go-to for the gringo.The two brisket options offer different dressings and veggies. The brisket taco is simple, with queso fresco, cilantro and onions; the BBQ brisket taco has more character, with casa-made BBQ sauce and slaw. Here’s the catch. The brisket is "very slowly roasted," while the BBQ brisket is just half-assed "slow roasted." Turtle versus cautious turtle. What’s the difference? I really want to know, dammit.
While Austin is currently trying to be too much like … well, Austin, Torchy’s Tacos has grown into its own since its food trailer days. Serving bigger than average tacos, you’ll find a handful of comically named tacos such as the Mr. Pink, filled with guajillo-seared ahi tuna and cabbage fresca, or the Dirty Sanchez, which mixes scrambled egg, fried poblano chile and guacamole. Don’t let the names fool you. Your mouth will surely experience a tacogasm. A good place to start would be the Democrat. Barbacoa is topped with fresh avocado, queso fresco, cilantro, onions and tomatillo salsa. For taste bud daredevils, try the aptly named Brushfire, loaded with Jamaican jerk chicken, grilled jalapeños and mango, then covered in diablo hot sauce.
You will find novelty tacos similar to other places', but maybe you want to impress your Tinder date with knowledge of another culture’s food. Luck is on your side. The tacos here feature the most diverse ingredients of any novelty spot around. You can be pulled in several different directions. The grilled Mediterranean flank steak is a refreshing combination of Brazos Valley feta, light Greek salad, tzatziki and fresh dill. The crisp tikka chicken has a spicy pepper sauce, cilantro basmati rice and thai basil, bringing Asia to you via tortilla. It gets busy late night, so skip that last craft beer and beat the crowd. Waiting in line for tacos will not impress your Tinder date.
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Taco Ocho, Richardson
Their menu is like grandma’s Thanksgiving casserole of whatever ingredients are within arm’s reach. With flavors from “Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and of course Mexico,” their menu refuses to favor any one influence. For the functioning alcoholic in us all, the beef Colorado’s protein is braised with arbol chilies and yep … beer. Accompanied by jicama slaw, this offsets the saltiness of the beef with hints of sweetness. Since it’s apparent that queso is the ranch dressing of Mexico and beloved by all gringos alike, the jalapeño pork should be added to your taco repertoire. Aside from being braised in jalapeños and tomatillos, their queso fresco topping brings the taco home…right into your belly. A gringo novelty, not so much, but a Latin novelty, maybe.
Good 2 Go Taco
In East Dallas there used to only be a lake. Soon people began to question: Where can I eat weird tacos? This was a dire situation affecting hipsters, yoga pant wearers and foodies alike. Good 2 Go Taco is the epitome of the millennial hipster novelty taco. The Hotlanta and School Daze are solid bets for the first timer. With a hearty waffle-battered chicken strip and diced sweet potatoes, the Hotlanta makes cramming a fried chicken and waffle brunch down your throat feel so good. If you worked up an appetite crashing local funerals, School Daze, the sriracha-glazed meatloaf taco with smashed potatoes, will ensure you never scream at your mom for meatloaf again. So, people get tacos. The lake is saved. Dallas wins.