This is urgent, taco lovers. Start getting hungry now. Put on your carnitas T-shirts and hop in a car, bus or good pair of walking shoes.
Your destination is East Jefferson Boulevard, on the stretch that curls away from Oak Cliff’s historic center and northward to the Trinity River. Here, at the intersection of West 10th Street, is Dallas’ newest taco institution.
It’s called Del Sur Tacos, and it opened in late summer. Backed up to a used car lot, with its front door on the 10th Street sidewalk, Del Sur doesn’t look like much from the main road, but how many of the best taco restaurants do?
And make no mistake: This is one of the best in town.
It’s actually a second location for Olmy and Ismael Sanchez, whose original Del Sur Grill still operates inside a Shell Station in McKinney. They’d been cooking in McKinney since 2015, giving that suburb a taste of legitimate Mexican greatness. But they’ve lived in Oak Cliff for more than 15 years, so this spot is both an expansion and a homecoming.
For Ismael and Olmy, the key is keeping things simple. The dining room is such: Order at the counter, then take a seat and watch soccer on TV or admire the luchador mural on the eastern wall. Behind that counter, with its trough of bottled Mexican beers and cooler filled with flan in to-go boxes, a margarita machine churns away.
The best menu items stay simple, too. Ismael Sanchez, a Michoacán native who works the kitchen while Olmy befriends customers, has just two salsas, and they’re far richer in flavor than their ingredient lists would suggest. The light brown salsa is hotter, because it’s a blend of chile de arbol peppers with garlic, plus onions, which add a note of nutty sweetness. Del Sur’s green salsa is one of the best in town — hot, herby, garlicky, grassy — and it’s made with nothing more than grilled jalapeños, garlic and a splash of oil.
“Something simple, but I think it’s good salsas,” Ismael Sanchez explains.
He’s very right.
The taco list here is divided between the classics, such as al pastor and carnitas, and specialty tacos, which allow the chefs to add creative touches. All of them are served on corn tortillas made in-house from a third party’s nixtamalized masa.
As an example of the specialty tacos, consider el Santo: It mixes pork with flawlessly julienned radishes and slathers them both in a guajillo pepper salsa that will make you sit up a little straighter and open your eyes a little wider ($3.77).
Or upgrade a traditional carnitas, barbacoa, asada or pollo taco to a Del Sur, which claims to add avocado and jalapeño slices ($3.97). That’s quite an understatement: Ours showed up with huge avocado wedges and, to balance them out, an entire jalapeño pepper sliced lengthwise and grilled until slightly caramelized.
For the Sanchez taco, the namesake chef prepares big cubes of grilled beef and tops them with guacamole and a serrano pepper salsa ($4.15). It’s a sweet spot between minimalism and luxury: The stripe of green sauce is camouflage for a battle of flavors between the serrano’s sharp heat and the avocado’s smooth creaminess.
There’s breakfast available at dinnertime, too, in the form of El Maximo, a taco that combines barbacoa, scrambled egg and a mound of shredded cheese ($3.35). And Del Sur serves an impressive cochinita pibil taco, too, with a generous helping of pickled red onions on top of marinated pork, which makes for maybe the spiciest bite on the menu ($2.75).
So far as we can tell, Del Sur is just the second restaurant in the Dallas area to serve mulitas, a variety of quesadilla with two tortillas fried and separated by the filling ($5.75). According to internet photos uploaded by customers, the other spot has a habit of burning theirs, so we won’t name them here.
“I love the name of mulitas, I think it’s a catchy name,” Ismael Sanchez says. “I tell the customers, it’s like a quesadilla but something different.”
Since mulitas aren’t too common yet in Dallas, and since they very much should be, let’s go into a little more detail. Choose your meat filling — may we recommend the spectacularly flavorful al pastor? — and Del Sur’s cooks will mix it up with a few big, buttery beans, then serve it between two gently fried corn tortillas. On top, a scoop of guacamole poses luxuriously, the way vanilla ice cream would on a freshly baked brownie.
One of the most daunting challenges a Dallas diner can tackle is attempting to share mulitas with another person.
There are other dishes here, too, and more are coming soon. Ismael Sanchez says he’s working on introducing molletes and a chile relleno. The latter would be a natural extension of his already-famous chile relleno taco, which started as a Friday special but has joined the menu permanently; it was also recently one of Texas Monthly’s Taco of the Week features.
Del Sur’s torta cubana isn’t as loaded up or frankly terrifying as the monster sandwich served at El Rincon del DF, which sports breaded pork, fried eggs and hot dog slices. But El Rincon is temporarily closed after the Oct. 20 tornado damaged its building, and there’s something to be said for a sandwich that a normal human can actually finish.
The torta cubana at Del Sur is still a beautiful construction, with the ham separating lower layers of meat from the higher-up stacks of lettuce, tomato, peppers and refried beans ($10). And it will still leave you feeling full hours later.
If you’re still hungry, you can nibble on extras such as a small Styrofoam cup of guacamole, the avocado still chunky and the tortilla chips agreeably thick and salty ($5). Or get an extra helping of the beans, another example of Del Sur’s keep-it-simple mentality: The ingredients list probably doesn’t go much further than dried beans, cilantro and water, but the flavor is as deep as the pot in which those beans cooked.
On one visit, our side order of rice came out dry and crumbly, as if it had sat for too long. Our only other complaint is that Del Sur serves breakfast tacos but doesn’t open on weekdays until 9 a.m.
Sanchez assures us breakfast hours are coming soon. And then there won’t be much reason to complain about this neighborhood spot, which keeps its flavors classical, its salsas straightforward and its corn tortillas soft. Sometimes, simplest is best.
Del Sur Tacos, 720 E. Jefferson Blvd., Oak Cliff. 972-982-0004, delsurgrill.com. Open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.