Food: Taco Loco

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Check out these places on your next Taco Tuesday adventure

The big trend in the foodservice industry in the past few years has been to offer gourmet versions of simple foods. Gastropubs have popped up all over the country offering gourmet takes on such lowly food as burgers, grilled cheese, fries and mac and cheese. The reason for this trend boils down to simple economics, with the downturn in the economy, folks aren’t willing to pay exorbitant prices for gourmet meals in upscale restaurants. However, charging almost double for a gourmet version of a simple dish is easier for them to swallow (pun intended). Restaurateurs rarely spend much more to prepare these gourmet treats than they would for a standard version, so profit margins go way up. 

I suppose it was only a matter of time before tacos got the gourmet treatment. Food trucks on the west coast started the trend, offering fusion tacos, tortillas stuffed with Korean bulgogi and the like. The simple street food takes well to offering unusual combination of proteins, veggies and sauces, so why not jazz them up? With the opening of a couple of new taquerias, it seemed it was time to examine the scene in Fort Lauderdale. 

Taco Bar
2306 E Oakland Park Blvd.,
Ft Lauderdale
954-909-4213
TacoBar.menu 

The owners of the latest entry into the field, Taco Bar, might want to work on a few things if they plan to survive. I’m willing to cut them a little slack as they’d only been open a week or so when we stopped in. There’s no denying the food is good, but the prices are a bit high, for what you get. When you order tacos, that’s all there is. No chips, no beans, no salad, no rice. That wouldn’t be bad if they only charged a couple of bucks per taco. But the average price is $4 for a taco. Granted, for that you get a freshly made-on-site tortilla and some tasty fillings, such as the fresh fish in the Cabo fish tacos which featured grilled fish (the selection varies daily) served on three warm corn tortillas topped with a delicious chipotle mayo slaw and a sprinkling of cilantro. The Gringas showcased shaved slices of marinated pork between two grilled flour tortillas filled with melted cheese, finely chopped onions and cilantro. The menu states that this dish is served with pineapple and a side of guacamole (neither of which was offered nor served). 

My husband the vegetarian had precious little from which to choose. He did manage to find a vegetable quesadilla on the menu and it was adequate. Taco Bar also offers a choice of three specialty tacos for $3.99 each or three for $9.99, however, if you want to mix and match you must order them separately, which ups the tab to almost $12. In addition to tacos, tortas and enchiladas, breakfast is also served. 

The tacos are served on small metal sheet pans lined with paper. If you do want some chips, you’ll have to pay $3.99. Service was friendly, perhaps too much so, we sat and watched the one server on duty chat with other customers while we waited to place our order. After that, it was a good 15 minutes before our lonely tacos arrived, delivered by the chefs. I give this place three months, tops. 

Salsa Fiesta Grill
35 N. Federal, Fort Lauderdale
954-763-3436
SalsaFiestaGrill.com 

At Salsa Fiesta, according to its signage, you “Step up to the counter, order and pay for your food and then have it delivered to your table.” Well, that’s what the sign says. On the night our large group stopped by, a “server” (and I use that term loosely) showed us to a table and took our orders, entering them on an iPad, which is the way many restaurants are doing things nowadays. The computerized system is great, when it works. Either the wi-fi wasn’t cooperating, the restaurant’s server was slow or the employees don’t know how to operate the software. It took at least 30 minutes to place our order and then, when the plates were delivered, the server had no idea who ordered what. 

That aggravation aside, the food was quite good. We started with chips and guacamole which could have used some salt and spices, but was quite reasonably priced at $3.99 and provided enough for 4. Much of the usual Mexican restaurant fare is available, but we focused on the tacos. Taco Bar should take note that these tacos are priced $7.99 for two or $8.99 for three with a choice of proteins (although there is a $1 up-charge for steak or fish) and you are allowed to mix and match and the plate comes with chips and a salad topped with pico de gallo. There’s also a salsa bar with a vast array from tongue scorching hot to sweet and mild.

 I chose fish for the Guerrero taco, which melded nicely with the cabbage, mango, onions and cilantro cream sauce toppings. For the Mero Macho I chose steak, which arrived lightly dabbed with chimichuri and topped with beans, sour cream and cheese. Chicken nestled in slices of poblanos, corn and grated cheese in the Spicy Tangy Taco. Each was perfectly prepared in my choice of tortillas (made on premises).

 I wasn’t surprised when trying to pay the bill became a whirlwind of confusion. Again, not certain if it was a software, network problem or the server just didn’t know what she was doing, but it didn’t matter – the system doesn’t work. This company has chains throughout South America and is just entering the U.S. market with a half dozen locations in South Florida. 

Check out the tacos at these other spots, many of which celebrate Taco Tuesday with special dining deals: 

Agave Tacos

Locations in Davie and Doral

Soon to open at
2949 N. Federal, Fort Lauderdale
954-560-0954

Agave-TacoBar.com 

Rocco’s Tacos
1313 E Las Olas Blvd., Ft Lauderdale
954-524-9550
RoccosTacos.com

Tacocraft Taqueria &Tequila Bar
204 SW 2nd St., Fort Lauderdale
954-463-2003
TacoCraft.com


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