Dallas didn’t get taco trucks on every corner in 2016. But it did get a spate of noteworthy taqueria openings representing the taco’s diversity. And just when we think we’ve seen it all, we get Monterreyan specialties like the taco de trompo, spiffy delicate tacos with a vegetable focus, even smuggled huitlacoche, a new taco concern that sets up shop in a puzzling lot. What a time to be alive and love tacos.
Here, we spotlight the best of the new lot of taquerias. To be eligible, the business had to open no earlier than October 2015 (allowing for consideration businesses that opened in the purgatorial period of Best Of lists). While there are no-brainers here, there are indeed surprises in store, as well as plenty to munch on.
Maskaras Mexican Grill
2423 W. Kiest Blvd.
For six months, we watched and waited as a taqueria with a cartoonish masked Mexican wrestler (a luchador) painted smack dab in the center of its sign was built out at Kiest Boulevard and Hampton Road. When Maskaras Mexican Grill finally opened last month, the large dining room decked out in the owner’s personal lucha libre memorabilia collection, it had few customers. When we finally dropped in, we encountered juicy, salty carne asada, carnitas made fresh daily and the signature taco Maskaras.
On a first visit, the house taco had a base of melted white cheese and chopped carne asada topped with three avocado wedges and pico de gallo. A subsequent visit had the buttery, cool avocado slices replaced with a pico de gallo-spiked guacamole. The sauce was thin and light but held together and filled in the spaces between the beef bits. (Maskaras' co-owner and former telenovela star Rodolfo Jimenez says the guacamole is a result of increasing avocado prices.)
The house specialty isn’t the only stunner at Maskaras. The chopped pork in a rich brownish-red sauce improves in spice with each bite. The taco de lengua is just what it should be: prepared simply. Yet, if the taco Maskaras had an equal, it would be the classic chicken tacos dorados, rolled and deep-fried tacos plated under a disheveled bed of shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and crema. As for the empty dining room, it’s a thing of the past. Jimenez says the kitchen regularly runs out of food by day’s end.
2643 S. Hampton Road
Heading south on Hampton Road en route to Maskaras is a reassuring example that a hidden-in-plain-sight gem continues to exists, and its name is Mr. Chamorro. For some, this moniker is met with snickers — it translates to Mr. Pork Shank in English.
Snickers turn to profane exclamations of happiness after consuming the namesake taco, made with a filling cooked in its own fat along with other carnitas cuts Mr. Chamorro specializes in. The chicharron en salsa verde (fried pork rinds stewed with tomatillos and chiles until they’re just this side of mushy) and the milanesa (tender breaded chicken breast) are also favorites. With stellar tacos like these, the Oak Cliff location of the Monterrey, Mexico-based taqueria chain, which has been open for only five months, just might set up other Dallas-area locations. At least that’s what the one-room taco joint’s proprietor hopes will happen. We hope so, too, because this is by far one of the best new taquerias in the city this year.
9661 Audelia Road
Even before this Lake Highlands taco shop opened, folks who believe the only true tacos are made with pork, beef or chicken — bless their hearts — discounted Resident Taqueria as a cheffy hipster joint. They were right about one thing: It is “cheffy.”
Co-owner/chef Andrew Savoie has an impressive culinary pedigree, having worked under the likes of Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Thomas Keller. Savoie has applied his classical training to the tortilla to produce a dang-near perfect menu showcasing imagination while honoring Mexican flavors and gastronomic history. The cauliflower and kale taco with lemon-epazote crema and a sprinkle of pepitas —crunchy and smooth with an airy handmade flour tortilla — is enough to convert even the most stalwart hater of cauliflower and kale.
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If that’s still too much for you, find comfort in Resident’s weekly specials, which skew traditional with Mexican all-stars like herbaceous chorizo verde, golden, cheesy chile rellenos, garden-fresh squash blossoms and tangy hot dogs. It’s a dreamy lineup that seals Resident’s promise of creating a family-friendly neighborhood spot that makes regulars of locals and taco aficionados.
602 Singleton Blvd.
Tacos Mariachi’s take on Tijuana’s funky seafood tacos has earned the West Dallas pioneer myriad accolades. And rightly so — from the shrimp and julienned veggies taco dressed with melted Oaxaca cheese and a lacing of cilantro pesto to the campechano topped with carne asada, grilled octopus, shrimp, sliced avocado and pico de gallo, the selections are flabbergasting treats matched only by the daily specials. Chief among them is Tuesday’s CriscoKidd, which features chicharrones-crusted mahi mahi.
Perhaps best of all is owner Jesús Carmona, a veteran of the hospitality industry who will embrace you like one would hug a dear relative at the family celebration.
839 Singleton Blvd.
This West Dallas taqueria’s humble beginnings and sparse storefront are as far away from the modern design of Resident Taqueria and Taco Mariachi as possible. They also belie the renown of the house specialty, the pork taco de trompo. Although prepared in much the same way as its Mexico City cousin, the taco al pastor, which is also cooked on the vertical spit called a trompo, the taco de trompo hails from Monterrey, Mexico, and gets washed in a distinct marinade.
The pork is punchy and bears smoky hints of its paprika-heavy seasoning. Cilantro and chopped onions with a dousing of salsa de chile de árbol or the off-menu habanero salsa further distinguish the deceptively simple tortilla parcel. It fooled Bon Appétit, which called it a taco al pastor and christened it the magazine’s taco of the year. But there is no mistaking the product that is responsible for lines outside the door and onto the cracked sidewalk. It’s not the taco de trompo. It’s the campechana. Labeled a quesadilla by co-owners-cousins Luis and Juan Carlos Olvera, the campechana is a flour tortilla-based taco that mixes trompo meat, beef and cheese and is served open-faced to display its netted, fetching filling.