- Ménage a tortas: The trio features un poco de todo
Allow me to hop on a soapbox for a sec: As the third in a number of restaurants to open in the last few months that feature street fare or tapas, Taps y Tapas also follows its predecessors’ price points, which aren’t “street” at all. Of course, it’s not cheap to create quality food, and many of these dishes (and their resulting bill of fare) are meant to be shared among the table, but if you’re charging more than $10 for three torta sliders, diners should leave satiated and ready to spread the word. Rant over.
While the menu is still undergoing tweaks, the Taps y Tapas story started several months ago when owners Denise Aguirre, Noel Cisneros (of The Point Park & Eats) and chef Luciano Valadez (Texasada Mexican Street Food) announced the venture via a press release. Aguirre and Cisneros handle the brews (24 of them in cans, bottle and of course, taps, largely Texas craft-centered), and Valadez mans the kitchen. So far the eatery is a welcome addition to Five Points—the midtown neighborhood took a hit when area fave Green Vegetarian relocated to the Pearl Brewery. Taps y Tapas fills the shoes of the late Quincy’s Deli, but Aguirre, Cisneros and Valadez have taken lengthy steps to turn the space into their own.
Changes include revamped and manicured front and back patios with custom-made tables and benches, and a small outdoor stage put to good use by local musicians. Indoors, the addition of a bar in the back room and a collection of art sprinkled throughout the dining rooms complete the makeover for a laidback neighborhood joint offering better-than-average brews and fare.
Valadez, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, is really stretching his legs inside the restaurant and the results are promising. After having cooked out of an 8-by-10 trailer and, later, a slightly larger food truck, chef’s got an expanded lab in which to play mad scientist.
Some of the hits include the huitlacoche empanada, with corn and queso Oaxaca, the Tacos 3 Ways (with a standard al pastor, carne asada and a standout lightly battered fish taco topped with zesty pico and a zippy avocado sauce) and the ceviche, which Valadez has transitioned out of the truck and into the brick-and-mortar restaurant.
As a sucker for soup, I was pleasantly pleased by a lunchtime cup of flor de calabaza, or squash blossom, with its comforting broth and chopped yellow and green squash, tomato and bits of corn. My torta de carnitas, while a bit messy, was enjoyable, but the real highlight was the kale salad. While kale might have jumped the shark several months back, this iteration is different enough to bring me back on board: the cilantro lime vinaigrette coated the greens without overwhelming them and touches of queso fresco, pineapple chunks and candied pecans finished the dish. While not the biggest fan of jicama, the addition provided an extra crunch, but a julienne cut might help.
The costillas en guajillo (beef ribs braised in guajillo sauce, already a popular menu mainstay) weren’t available during my first visit, so we opted for the thick-cut pork chop in the same chili. Tender and just spicy enough to wake up your taste buds, this chuleta over earthy black beans and white rice was the entrée to write home about (I texted). However, Valadez says the pork chop is no longer featured as an entree, but the costillas will remain.
If you don’t mind the mess, try the fried chicken mole lollipops. At $8 ($6 on weeknights from 5:30-7:30 p.m.) the dish was hefty enough to get me to hop off my soapbox, but just a bit too involved. Drop the micro greens and the crema–the mole is more than enough.
Let’s revisit those torta sliders mentioned above. The cochinita pibil is tender and topped with house-pickled red onions; the torta ahogada keeps the carnitas simple and the red salsa fresh and light; the torta estilo Jalisco is best with the steak asada. At $13, it’s satisfying but I’d ditch one of the tortas in favor of house-made chips or a side salad. Or, to make sure big appetites don’t leave hungry, order the chips or salad on the side, but be aware: it’ll cost you.
Taps y Tapas
1012 N Flores,
Best Bets Try the tortas and the tacos (particularly the Baja-style fish iteration), ceviche, kale salad, squash blossom soup
The Skinny Food truck goes indoors as chef Luciano Valadez and The Point Park owners give modern Mexican a shot
Hours 11am-11pm, Mon; 11am-11pm Wed-Thu; 11am-midnight Fri-Sat; Noon-9pm Sun
Prices $3-$13 tapas, $8-$9 salads, $8-$14 entrees, $3.50 dessert