Boy, what’s not to like about Yucatan Taco Stand (909 W. Magnolia Av.)? It recently took over the old BJ Keefer’s space, which did have pretty good burgers but, in the grand scheme of Magnolia restaurant-row-ification, is not that huge of a loss.
The renovated space is now designer gorgeous, with clean minimalist lines, a mod chocolate-mint-olive color scheme, and a smart mix of fabrics and textures. Curtained cabana booths, even. And the menu, devised by chef-about-town Paul Willis (who’s also devised or tweaked menus at Fuzzy’s, Cabo Grill, and the late Pedro’s Trailer Park, among others), is a hip retort to Chow, Baby’s “I want more Latin American food!” bellyachings.
So what’s not to like? Well, Chow, Baby will tell you. For one, Yucatan follows the Pei Wei model: You order at the counter, get a little round disk with a number on it, and are pointed to the serve-yourself iced tea selections ($1.95). That’s fine for a quickie lunch, but for these dinner prices – up to $22, for a prime-strip chimichurri with chipotle mashed and lovely grilled asparagus – Chow, Baby wants to be waited on at least hand, if not foot. And speaking of prices: Burritos, salads, and sandwiches start at $7.50, for which you could buy an entire actual taco stand.
The “signature” tempura fish taco is very good, not surprising considering its Fuzzy’s DNA – but why is it $3.50 when Fuzzy’s is $1.99? True, Yucatan does add a couple of extras, like the roasted garlic sauce that they slather on pretty much everything. Not a problem; Chow, Baby likes garlic. Chow, Baby also likes goat, which is why it ordered a cabrito sandwich ($7.50), grilled torta bread with garlic sauce, Mexican cheese, lettuce, tomato … and roasted lamb? Yep, lamb. According to a Yucatan manager, lamb and goat are the same thing, and cabrito is the Peruvian word for “lamb” even though in every other Spanish-speaking country it means “goat,” and also cabrito is a cooking method rather than a meat. That was entertaining. And the sandwich was juicy-delicious.
Another nitpick: The food all looks like it was just thrown onto the plate. Thick, smoky queso ($5) slopped over its bowl. Tequila lime chicken nachos ($7.50, but enough appetizer for four), of which the first two ingredients couldn’t even be tasted, looked like a demolished house. A vegetarian burrito bowl ($8.50), one of several nice vegetarian options, must have had its everything-but-meat-and-the-kitchen-sink ring-tossed in from six feet away. In this beautiful room, and for these prices, Chow, Baby wants some damn presentation.
Sum it all up, we have stylin’ décor, a trendy cuisine (Latin is so much fresher than Mex) reinterpreted for the masses, high prices, a swanky tequila bar (martinis are so 2007). And oh yeah, as an afterthought – Yucatan’s afterthought, not Chow, Baby’s – pretty good food. It’s a P.F. Chang’s with plantains, a Vidalia’s with paella, a Cantina Laredo with cabrito (lamb). With its whiff of behind-the-scenes corporate marketing research, Yucatan isn’t Chow, Baby’s kind of place, but it’s definitely worth a look-see – head on over, or if you live in the right zip code, wait for one to come to you. Chow, Baby wouldn’t be surprised to see Yucatan Taco Stands popping up all around the Metroplex. They’ll do great.
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