Rock 'n' Taco Can't Quite Hit the Power Chords

What do tacos, LED light installations, and douchebags wearing graphic T-shirst all have in common? They were all present Thursday night when we visited the latest addition to the taco joint trend, Rock 'n' Taco. Occupying the space that was once Rocco's Pizza, Rock 'n' Taco is the first restaurant venture from Avi Aldri, owner of neighboring nightclub Aura.

The scene inside is reminiscent of a nightclub -- purple velvet wallpaper, slick booths, a fancy LED infused ceiling that changes colors. Mirrors line the bar, which was tended by a young bartender whose purple and blue Mohawk just happened to match the LED ceiling every five minutes or so. Not sure if that was intentional, but it was pretty damn cool. Rock music blared from the sound system, everything from recent U2 hits to New Order remixes, but this was the Rock 'n' Taco, so what else would the play?

When we'd finally soaked in the Miami Vice meets Gothic revival décor, our friendly waitress took our drink orders. She told us since they've only been selling rockin' tacos for a week, they haven't printed cocktail menus. Fair enough. Then she proceeded to read a list of a dozen or so flavored margaritas, some of which sounded more like sno-cone options than adult beverages. There was pomegranate, peach, mango, spicy mango, and our nominee for most unusual margarita concoction, banana. Yes, banana. We settled on an apricot version and perused the menu.

Of course a place named Rock 'n' Taco wouldn't be complete without a rock-themed menu, and the stars of music are honored taco creations here. For appetizers, savor the roasted Korn queso or the Earth, Wind and Fire roasted corn on the cob. The queso's average, not many heavy metal notes there. Then there's the Beach Boys Baja tacos, white fish served with jalapeno cabbage slaw and cilantro dressing. Surprisingly, the fish is marinated in citrus juices and not psychedelics. We decided to skip on that -- and the Don Ho Pollo tacos -- in favor of the namesake, Rock-n-Taco. By this time, our drinks arrived, frozen margaritas with what appeared to be an ounce of flavored syrup at the bottom. When we inquired about the mystery liquid, our waitress scooped up the glasses and took them to the bar for a round in the shaker. Once thoroughly shaken, the apricot margarita was subtly sweet and a good alternative to more sugary versions.

As the crowd began to swell inside the small dining room, our dinner arrived much earlier than expected. Priced at $18, the signature taco dish features two rib-eye tacos served with a scoop each of rice, beans and a pickled slaw. The tacos were dressed with mashed avocado, black-bean puree, onion strings and a sprinkle of queso fresco. The meat was tender and cooked medium, but it hadn't been marinated long enough and lacked proper seasoning. The avocado mash was listed on the menu as "avocado dressing," but it was nothing more than avocado and lime juice. The heavy-handed pile of fried onion strings added little to the tacos other than grease, and they didn't have the crispness that the taco needed. The tortillas themselves were decent and not greasy, but they were not homemade.

Neither was the tres leches cake, which we were told was homemade. The slice we had was heavily soaked in sweet milk, but parts of the cake were frozen solid. At $5, it was probably the most affordable part of the meal. But the best part of dinner came at the end of the night when we asked our waitress, clad in breastaurant garb, for a glass of Pinot Grigio. She returned moments later and announced they only had one "light-colored wine." Guess the Bob Marley Vineyards doesn't offer one.

Rock 'n' Taco 2916 McKinney Ave. 214-740-0909

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