- Dan Payton
- Have we reached taco saturation?
I'm not the authority on the concept of puro. A Valley-transplant since 2004, I can be passed off as a native San Antonian ... to a few, that is until the pre-requisite "what high school did you go to?" query comes along. Still, San Anto and I share a love for quality tacos, especially paired with a giant margarita. It's a bit jarring, especially given the multitude of taco joints in town, that there'd be a need for another ... especially one shipped in from Austin.
I'm not trying to start another taco battle with our neighbors up I-35. Having a taco-themed argument in Texas seems silly in general (we should focus instead on Cali and their love for burritos ... but that's neither here nor there). But it seemed a bit presumptuous for the eatery to open in San Anto, where you can throw a chancla and it'll likely land at a taco joint (that having been said, the kitsch of Torchy's Tacos is somehow less intrusive, if only because sometimes I want to eat a crazy taco, that's not puffy and won't cost an arm and a leg).
Again ... tacos, we got 'em, do we need to import more?
To their credit, Tacos and Tequila (TNT) bills itself as a Southwestern restaurant on its Facebook page, so it's not really trying to step on the toes of said puro ma y pa joints where patrons could just as easily find tacos ... and ... tequila. The owners also employed Urbanist Design, a local architecture firm, to jazz up the joint within the parameters of their brand and the original design of Austin's Michael Hsu. To that effect, the eatery is warm and welcoming, while still coming off as posh and thought-out. The addition of art by Chilean artist Cristóbal Schmal, a staple at the first location, and works by SA photographer Scott Martin (who created a series of revolving landscapes shown on flat-screens throughout the eatery's back wall) are also great efforts in localizing the eatery.
But that's really where it stops. The menu is nearly identical to the ATX flagship location, and it's slightly overwhelming. I'm not entirely sure I've given it enough of a read to truly know what I'm getting into. Presented on a long wooden clipboard, the menu is broken down into snacks, fresh sides, good karma guacamole (SA proceeds go toward the American Cancer Society and the Artist Foundation of San Antonio), specialty platters, breakfast, limonadas and sweets. The backside of the menu breaks down the selections available from the grill—seared ahi tuna, barbecue pulled pork, grilled steak or chicken, buffalo chicken (but, why?), corn-crusted chicken, rojo shrimp, chimichurri beef tenderloin and Southwest veggie.
Each visit starts off with a quick scan of the restaurant as the wait staff drops off a trio of salsas (ditch the fire-roasted salsa, which reeks of liquid smoke, and instead nosh on the tomatillo and avocado, a pleasant enough take and is there anyone out there that doesn't like chipotle mayo?) and a bag of chips (also in threes with sweet potato, blue corn and regular tortilla). After three stops in, I'm still getting a lay of the land—which features booths facing Broadway, a gleaming open kitchen and a jewel of a bar with tequila-filled wrought-iron cages cascading from the ceiling. Once settled in, there are a few choices to make.
I chose a lunch special with two tacos and a side for $10 ($1 extra for shrimp, ahi and beef tenderloin) with seared ahi and corn-crusted chicken. Served with a small portion of sweet corn cake, the tacos were ... decent. The corn crust was crunchy, but not necessarily exciting, while the seared ahi with agave soy glaze and TNT horseradish had a nice kick without overwhelming the tuna.
For my dinner visit, I opted for the chimichurri, shrimp and Southwest veggie taco platter served on a long, rectangular plate with a side of Chimayo market corn. Served on small flour tortillas (am I just used to giant SA versions?), the tacos fared better than their lunch counterparts. The Southwest veggie was my top pick—the squash and peppers held their own against a tequila orange glaze that was more of a trace, preferable to it drenching the vegetable's grilled goodness. A close second was the chimichurri beef tenderloin with thinly sliced beef and a spicy chimi. Though the rojo has the elements of a delicious bite—the shrimp is rubbed with recado rojo and a Sriracha orange baste and topped with onion rajas and jalapeño relish—the result was too salty. I'm a sucker for the roasted corn, so I had no complaints there (just left over corn bits on my face).
If there's an issue with TNT that could be fixed with time it's the fine print, and I mean this quite literally. Each grilled protein is presented either in street taco, skewer, salad wrap, burrito or salad form, and each with different accoutrements. I get wanting variety and hoping to satisfy a large audience, but if that's the case I'll need more than a couple of minutes to get my order down (and maybe a pair of bifocals).
Perhaps TNT's niche is at its bar and its extensive tequila list. The margs were plenty fine, though a toasted coconut marg, the featured drink of December, with blanco tequila, horchata and agave teetered on way too sweet and not nearly boozy enough for this imbiber. Industry folks gathered at the bar on a recent Monday night for $4 house margs, mojitos, sangria, wells, house wine (available all Lunes long) and a $1.50 taco bar from 4-6:30 p.m.
You'll go for the food, but let's face it: most visitors (of which there were many) would be just as fine if the restaurant's name was Tequila and Tequila (tacos optional).
Tacos and Tequila
1915 Broadway, (210) 314-8226, tacos-and-tequila.com
The Skinny: Austin-based Tacos and Tequila brings Southwestern eats to San Antonio. Grilled selections are decent, but you'll stay for tequila creations.
Best Bets: Steak and chicken chimichurri, roasted corn, veggie skewers, burrito, seared ahi, rojo shrimp
Hours 11am-10pm Mon-Thu; 11am-2am Fri; 10am-2am Sat; 10am-10pm Sun