What is it about a super restaurant chain opening up that makes people in Fort Worth go nuts? It’s like Beatlemania every time a new one comes to town. Who could forget the cops directing traffic when In N Out opened? Or the teaming mass of humanity that camped out for hours to be the first to taste Krispy Kreme doughnuts? It’s nuts, I tell ya.
I’m not suggesting that the hype around the opening of Austin-based Torchy’s Tacos (928 Northton St.) rivaled either of those, but still… . For the last couple of weeks it was all anyone at my office could talk about. They’d say, “I can’t believe we’re getting a Torchy’s in Fort Worth,” like this city is some backwater Hooverville finally getting indoor plumbing. Result: I hated the place before even setting foot in it. How dare people look forward to something when I’m being grumpy about it?
But OK, I hit the place on its first night — it was my duty. The parking lot looked like a Who concert was happening inside, and the line spilled out the doors. No thanks.
I tried again over the weekend. It was still busy but not enough to scare me away. As I stood in line, arms folded huffily, I read the goofy names of the menu items, like “The Dirty Sanchez” taco and “The Democrat,” “The Republican,” and “The Independent.” Such gimmicky stuff just stoked the embers of my hate. Lemme at ’em.
Then a funny thing happened: I ate the food. And it was, as the company’s slick marketing material suggests, “damn good.”
The restaurant has a kind of laid-back rustic vibe, with a cool inside/outside bar. The line moved fairly quickly, especially considering how new the staff is. The menu and concept will look familiar to fans of Fuzzy’s or Yucatan Taco Stand but with more options than either. Diners can chose from six hot sauces, though each is paired with a specific item on the menu.
To start, I opted for the guacamole ($4.95), which was well-seasoned and undeniably fresh. The tacos are enormous, so I ordered only two. The green chile pork ($3.50), was stuffed with tender slow-roasted carnitas, topped with a superbly messy queso fresco and served with a tomatillo sauce that had a decent, if light, kick. The Baja shrimp taco ($4.25) with fried shrimp, cabbage slaw, jalapeños, onions, queso fresco, and served with a chipotle sauce, was simple, delicious, and, dare I say, elegant. The little “nookies” ($2.95), deep-fried chocolate chip cookies dusted with powdered sugar and topped with cherries ($2.95 for three), were the perfect sweet topper to an excellent meal. Like the rest of my dinner, they weren’t the height of culinary achievement, but they did combine simple and fresh flavors in a creative way.
I left Torchy’s a different person. I practically gave Tiny Tim money for a Christmas goose on my way out. Unlike In N Out, Krispy Kreme, and the procession of other hip chains that have hit town, Torchy’s lived up to the hype, dammit.
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