Light My Fire
Some new places just seem like they’ve been around forever. Take Rodeo Goat in the West 7th Street corridor. It’s been open only a couple of months, but it’s already a citywide go-to spot. The same could be said of a few other establishments (Brewed, Magnolia Motor Lounge, Reservoir). In a way, Torchy’s Tacos in the Hospital District is another insta-success. The small chain with additional locations in Dallas, Houston, and headquarters Austin is sort of an upscale Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. Not in terms of prices. Rather, Torchy’s fare is a bit more experimental and occasionally more exciting.
There isn’t much to the place: just a small but bright and airy industrial-looking dining room with a path to the bar that straddles the interior and a small patio. Though Torchy’s isn’t a hangout per se, the bar seems pretty popular. Probably a great place for a liquid lunch or pre-tailgate party party. The beer selection includes Peticolas, Fireman’s #4, and assorted Rahrs, and there are at least two dozen varieties of tequila available.
The food hits the spot. Well, most of the time. Sometimes Torchy’s gets a little too fancy for its own good or forgets the salt and spice.
The Baja shrimp taco sounded tasty: fried shrimp, cooked cabbage slaw, pickled jalapeños and onions, queso fresco, and cilantro with chipotle sauce and a wedge of lime. In actuality, though, the breading was dense, dark brown, and crusty, and the pickled veggies only befouled the bites. There wasn’t any tempering sweetness or tang. Just grit.
Equally substandard were the two vegetarian tacos. The Independent (fried portobello mushroom strips, refried black beans, roasted corn, carrots, queso fresco, cilantro, and avocado drizzled with ancho aioli) and the fried avocado (with refried beans, pico de gallo, lettuce, and cheese with poblano sauce) were greasy, flavorless, and mushy.
As unsavory as they were, however, neither was as disappointing as the Trailer Park taco, whose failure could be blamed mostly on high expectations –– even though the menu says, “Fried chicken,” don’t anticipate Buttons Restaurant-caliber bird. You’re getting chicken fingers.
Ah, but keep digging into Torchy’s menu, and you’ll discover some pure culinary gold, starting with the golden-hued queso. Torchy’s version of the traditional Tex-Mex dip is so good you’ll slap your vieja. Creamy, rich, flecked with cilantro, and anchored by a dollop of Cotija cheese, the queso was salty and creamy deliciousness manifest. (Some tacos can be ordered “trashy,” which means “with queso.” Do it.)
One of Torchy’s best tacos is also one of its simplest. Fajita fans, if you’re paying more than about seven bucks for a fajita platter at your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, you’re paying too much. Torchy’s chicken fajita taco has to be as good as if not better than anything you’d be served at, say, Nuevo Leon or Salsa Fuego. The grilled chicken was tender and succulent (and plentiful) with that yummy burnt aroma, and the grilled onions and peppers, cheese, and pico (and added sour cream) created a juicy symphony of complementary flavors. Order two, and you’ll never go anyplace else for your fajita fix.
The Mr. Pink taco was just as impressive. Loaded with scrumptious seared Ahi tuna, cabbage fresca, cilantro, and queso fresco with chipotle sauce and a wedge of lime, the taco was mouthwatering, hearty, and supremely flavorful with no fishy aftertaste.
Really, the only other true entrée that Torchy’s serves is the grande burrito: your choice of beef, chicken, pork, or veggie served with rice, your choice of beans, cheese, pico, sour cream, and guacamole in a 12-inch flour tortilla. The chicken, fresh and cooked to perfection, was superlative, though the rice and beans were a little earthy and flavorless.
Torchy’s also serves breakfast –– all day long and with outstanding results. Along with traditional tacos and migas, Torchy’s kitchen pumps out The Wrangler (scrambled eggs and potatoes topped with smoked beef brisket and jack cheese with tomatillo sauce on a flour tortilla), the Monk Special (eggs, bacon, green chiles, and cheese on your choice of tortilla), and the Ranch Hand (strips of grilled fajita beef with scrambled eggs, shredded cheese, and diablo hot sauce on a flour tortilla). Though a little pricey at $3.50, the Ranch Hand was a gooey, substantial delight. The beef was gristly and juicy and, wrapped in melted cheese and fresh eggs, worth every penny.
No matter what’s said here, for better or worse, Torchy’s business will continue to boom. The place has been around forever, after all.
928 Northton St, FW. 817-289-8226. 8am-10pm Sun, 7am-10pm Mon-Thu, 7am-11pm Fri, 8am-11pm Sat.
All major credit cards accepted.
Baja shrimp taco ………… $4.25
Chicken fajita taco ……… $3.50
The Independent ………… $3.50
Mr. Pink …………………….. $4.75
Trailer Park taco ………… $3.50
Grande burrito …………… $7.50