How I Spent my National Taco Day: Celebrating the Newcomers

Being relatively new to Dallas, it behooves me to sample all the tacos this city has to offer -- even the least authentic of the lot. So, I spent my National Taco Day touring some of Big D's tweakier taco joints.

While I was sated enough by the food at Rusty Taco, mentally I was only partially satisfied. The Rusty taco (achiote pork with charred pineapple) had moderately tasty meat, but the pineapple was absent. Furthermore, and this has never happened to me before, the smattering of cilantro gave me a flashback of my mouth being washed out with soap as punishment for repeating at dinner a new English word heard on the playground. We had recently moved to the States, and I was lapping up my adopted language with relish. A new word was like the tenderest carnitas folded inside two warm sweet corn tortillas. My father who grew up bilingual didn't always appreciate my zeal.

I shouldn't always appreciate my zeal. Seated on the side patio of Rusty Taco, with a torn-up parking lot before me, and the smell of tar and gravel singeing my olfactory nerves, I bit into the waterlogged fried fish taco. The only redeemable aspect of the disappointing taco was the chipotle crema. Sure, the sauce is a popular condiment in Nuevo tacos, but it was better than the average iteration.

I wanted Urban Taco to be a higher-end El Tizoncito. For this one, I took my son, who requests tacos for every meal. The moody two-year-old was given the carnitas taco. Safe bet, right? He loves pork. In his words, "No way, Dad!" While the filling was properly shredded, it was so devoid of flavor that the little guy took a few bites, than let the meat plop onto his plate. I thought that was the right move too: The tortilla was better than the pork. I had the God-awful chicken mole taco. The color of mercury, the meat was poison to my mole-loving heart.

The last stop was Tin Star Taco Bar in NorthPark mall. Tin Star offers shoppers the fatty, trashy, yet-somehow-highfalutin fare they require: One of the Tin Star favorites is the cheeseburger taco, served with Cheddar, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle relish bacon and yellow mustard. Since I reserve mustard for straight-up burgers and hot dogs, I chose its more urbane cousin, the bacon and blue cheeseburger taco.

The half patties in each were tepid and rubbery. The onion strings were limp. The bacon was crunchy and not overly salty. The blue cheese, however, was as stinky as a wet, fungus-infested shoe fresh off the playing field, something as far from a properly odiferous blue cheese as Tin Star is from many East Dallas taquerías.

I've had other Tin Star tacos before (the brisket and the executive, which also contains fried onions and blue cheese. The latter ingredient didn't fail me on that visit) and wasn't as turned off by them as I was the cheeseburger. If you're in the mall and have a hankering for tacos, the aforementioned aren't epiphanic, but they'll do you right for what they are. Tin Star deserves props for innovation, though. If you're going to produce a hybrid taco, go balls to the wall.

All things considered, at least I can say I've been to the other side, returning confident that the likes of El Guero and La Paisanita will not fall victim to nuevo taqueros.

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