The hours are somewhat mushy, but this weekend things should be in full swing at the new Velvet Taco (3012 North Henderson), and the "open really late" line stamped on their black and yellow sign will finally ring true.
This ain't no Texas taco. The menu details twenty options, and not a single item fits into traditional convention. The customer in front of me had questions about several ingredients. I had a few as well.
"What's a Kumato?" It's a greenish-red heirloom tomato. The diced fruit accompanies American cheese, apple-wood bacon, lettuce, onion, pickles and a velvet sauce, all in a menu item coined the Texas Burger. The "taco" sports a perfectly cooked beef patty and everything else you'd expect, but it's served on a flour tortilla instead of a bun.
Try the #1. It's got rotisserie chicken, queso fresco, onion chutney, pickled chiles, and pea tendrils in a hand-made corn tortilla. Or the #8, with roasted pulled pork, thai basil (mine had sweet basil last night), grilled pineapple-habanero salsa and barbecue sauce. Vegetarians have three options including mushroom, egg, and an Indian themed paneer taco with raita and chutney.
When I first wrote about elotes a commenter criticized me for "immediately thinking of ways to ways to white it up." But it wasn't just me: Velvet's version sports roasted corn, mayo, lime and plenty of melted queso fresco. It's good, and costs $2.75 -- a quarter less than the humble version I tried from a cart on Maple Avenue.
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There are two tribes in the world of tacos. There are steadfast purists who prefer things simple, who value well-cooked, well-seasoned meat inside a double corn tortilla with some onions for crunch, cilantro for pungency, and perhaps some hot sauce for a little extra heat. And then there's the rest of us, the hungry and curious, who don't mind as much when Taquerías push against the arc of taco evolution, or even think outside the curve. (Just don't "think outside the bun." That's just gross.)
If you're a purist, you should probably move along, but if you're open minded, Velvet Taco completely obliterates taco convention. Say what you want, but don't argue the ingredients are inferior here. Everything tastes fresh and of high quality. Four-fifty may seem like a lot for a taco (cheaper versions start at $2.50) but you get a lot of food for your money. I couldn't finish three.
When I spoke to co-owner Mark Brezinski last week to ask about an opening date, he referred to the restaurant as a "prototype." The description lacked soul but indicated larger aspirations. Watch out Fuzzy. Velvet Taco is coming.