First Look

Deep Ellum Tacos Brings Budget Homemade Mexican Food Late into the Night

Deep Ellum Tacos has chapuline tacos, but we went with beef.
Deep Ellum Tacos has chapuline tacos, but we went with beef. Lauren Drewes Daniels
Deep Ellum was getting an early start on the weekend last Thursday afternoon. The weather was amazing and many opted for patio tables to enjoy the day.

The storied entertainment district is popular not only for live music and bars, but as an incubator for the Dallas culinary scene. In the early ‘90s, places like The Green Room infused punk rock into the local fine-dining scene. And while that trend continues, recently we spotted a small taco window on a side street with “Deep Ellum Tacos” spray painted on a parklet out front.
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Deep Ellum Tacos El Habanero is just a bit off the beaten path and has parklet seating.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Had it not been for two other customers waiting at tables outside, we might have thought it was closed; the windows are just dark. But the "Open" light in the window was lit, so we started reading the menu.

The menu at Deep Ellum Tacos El Habanero includes street tacos, nachos, tortas and burritos, but it also offers some more traditional bites like tlayuda from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. These are large, thin fried tortillas topped with refried beans and sometimes chapulines, which are also on the menu here (fried grasshoppers, $7 for a side order). They're a popular Oaxacan snack, especially when spiced. (Could be the protein of the future.)

It took a while to decide from the large menu, but when ready we rang the doorbell at the window. A minute later the window slid open. Behind the guy taking our order was a nice kitchen with two cooks over stoves, working large pots. It was a commercial kitchen with home-kitchen energy.
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Chicken nachos come on homemade chips and are enough for at least two people.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
We started with an order of Nachos de la Casa ($14.50). A to-go box was filled with homemade tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, chicken and refried beans along with the usual accompaniments. We could barely put a dent in these and weren’t too insistent, considering we still had tacos and a burrito to work through.

We ordered three steak tacos, served street style with lime, cilantro and onions. The tender beef was perfect with a bit of spice, and the serving size here was great. The green sauce is hot, though — like lips burning for 10 minutes level. Go easy. The tortillas appeared to be housemade, if not finished on a griddle as ordered.
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Don't judge a burrito by its messy pictures. It's perfect.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Lastly, we did everything we could to finish the Traditional Burrito ($13). After trying the green salsa we’re glad we didn’t get the Hot N Spicy option. This was a mammoth amount of food with all the proper fillings, making the toasted tortilla work hard not to explode like a can of refrigerated biscuits. It didn’t.

In all, we got enough food for three (maybe four) full-grown adults for $40. So, $13 per person if three — that’s a humdinger of a deal. In all, it’s booze-soaking good food, with a homemade quality for a very reasonable price in the middle of an entertainment district.

Bonus, the little parklet is actually comfortable and a nice place to watch the crowd from a distance. Also, Deep Ellum Tacos is open as late as 3 a.m.

It's also one of the vendors at the upcoming Tacolandia event and will be offering some of this fare there.

Deep Ellum Taco El Habanero, 2723 Elm St. (Deep Ellum), Noon – 2 a.m. Monday – Wednesday, noon – 3 a.m. Thursday – Saturday.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.

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