Recently we wanted to learn about the best places in Dallas to drink tequila. Not in the sense of slamming shots, but in terms of a robust or select collection. Honestly, at first the idea was to create a quick list of the best five or 10 spots. Then after some research, we realized that simply wouldn't suffice. Just a few interviews in, it was apparent that tequila occupies a special place in many a heart. So, we'll take this journey a little slower as we begin a series of profiles on the best spots in Dallas for not only sipping tequila, but also embracing the culture around it.
Tequila has a bad rap. No, it shouldn't taste like gasoline. And, no, the only way to ingest it isn't by slamming a shot while the crowd cheers. Tequila is to be savored, if not for layers of earthen flavors tinged with the century-old process of making it, then for the heritage and culture that is poured into every bottle.
Markus Pineyro of Urban Taco agrees. He speaks of tequila with passion: "It's part of my culture, it's part of my heritage. It's a point of pride for me."
Pineyro moved to Dallas to from Mexico City, where he was born and raised, to attend SMU. After graduating, he managed some restaurants locally, then along with parent group Del Sur opened Urban Taco to offer the food he grew up with in a modern setting. And while Pineyro works hard on all aspects of his restaurants, from the food to hospitality and setting, his tequila collection is the soul of his restaurant.
Urban Taco carries 40 tequilas in-house, all of which are chosen through a pretty meticulous process. For Pineyro, the first hard and fast rule is that tequila must be sold and distributed throughout Mexico. "That means it has history and tradition in Mexico; not only sold for distribution in the U.S.," he says. "Those tequilas are only about marketing and fancy bottles."
Estate-grown tequilas are a second standard for Pineyro, which means the agaves used to make the tequila come from a specific field (the same field year after year), as opposed to being purchased in markets where agaves can come from a variety of different fields.
Tasting Notes In terms of choosing a tequila to try Urban Taco, Pineyro suggests customers talk to the bartender or servers who are all knowledgeable about the collection. "We have monthly classes for our servers," he says. "Also, our tequilas are arranged in different sections by type, so they can walk you through them all.
"We also have a tequila menu that is like a wine menu with tasting notes on the different subtleties of each bottle, and so you sort of know where you're starting."
Urban Taco is one of the few places in town that serves sangrita alongside tequila, which is a sweet, sour and spicy accompaniment made from fresh tomato, lime and orange juice with grapefruit soda and some seasonings.
"We also serve our tequilas in snifters instead of shot glasses," Pineyro says, "to encourage people to slow down and sip them.
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"No matter who comes in and what they order, I'm always able to turn them on to a real authentic tequila. Even if they've liked a particular brand their entire lives, I know I can find something they'll like even better."
The tequila menu is broken into three parts: blancos, which are unaged; reposados, aged two months to a year; añejos, aged one to three years; and extra añejos, which are aged more than three years.
They also have a rotating menu of house-made infusions, which are large glass urns with fruit or spices that soak in a blanco tequila 10 to 14 days. The ingredients change with the season.
In terms of personal favorites, Pineyro has a preference for anything from the Milagro estate, but for right now his favorite is Milagro Select Añejo, which is $20 per glass, but will change the way you think about and drink tequila.