Tina’s Cocina occupies space in one of the few strip malls on West Magnolia Avenue, and owner Juan Solis didn’t spend much of his capital improving the dining room. That’s fine. What comes out of the kitchen is good enough that diners won’t mind eating in plastic booths. The menu options are straight out of Solis’ mama’s cookbook, which is a bonus if you prefer your home cooking Mexican-style.
Tacos are $1.99 each a la carte, and the soft corn shells can be filled with a plethora of traditional meats, including barbacoa (beef head), carnitas (pork shoulder), and chorizo, along with iceberg lettuce and tomato. The desebrada (shredded brisket) taco was full of not-super-spicy fall-apart-tender meat. Salsa at Tina’s is not served in a bowl on the table with chips. Instead, it comes out of handy squeeze bottles, and there are two choices: a ferociously fiery green chile sauce and a milder, tangy, sweet-spicy red, which paired well with the desebrada. The chicken taco featured cuts of white meat marinated in a spicy chile seco (sauce made from dried serrano chiles). The taco was perfect as it was, no sauce needed.
Highlights of the specialty menu included the fajita steak tacos, whose marinade was spectacularly tasty. The beef was moist and juicy, and the accompanying molcajete (chunky, hand-ground) salsa provided an extra-spicy kick. The fish taco held a slab of tilapia about as big as two steak fries, fried in a garlic-oregano-spiced batter. I’m not a big fan of tilapia, but the overall package was fresh-tasting and not greasy, and the accompanying chipotle tartar sauce did wonders for the otherwise mild flavor of the fish.
Perhaps the best-tasting thing out of the kitchen this day was a simple veggie quesadilla. Yellow squash, zucchini, corn, and mushrooms had all been sautéed and grilled with some mild spices, including oregano and a little cumin, and stuffed between two flour tortillas. Served with some gooey queso blanco, the result was a glamorous, glorious, Mexican grilled cheese.
We had high hopes for the posole –– there’s something comforting about a bowl of the traditional spicy chicken and hominy stew. Tina’s version is more of a broth than a stew –– a lot less spicy and a lot thinner. The bowl did come with a nice amount of meat and veggies, though. The green chile salsa added a nice little zing, and the two accompanying fried corn tortillas were delicious (especially as vehicles for more of that red salsa).
None of the plates came with rice and beans. However, a side order that includes both costs less than a solo taco. The beans were deliciously thick and chunky, and the rice was exceptional, with a garden’s worth of fresh veggies added.
Desserts are not house-made, but the flan was tasty. It wasn’t the traditional round custard in a puddle of caramel sauce. Rather, it was almost cheesecake-like in texture, with a subtle hint of caramel.
From a foodie perspective, the restaurant boom on Magnolia has been a boon of deliciousness. What’s been missing (besides non-restaurant retail) has been affordable, casual Mex-Mex eateries (under $8 or so per meal). For about $5, you’ll get a good-sized food experience at Tina’s. For $10, you’ll be so full you’ll have to be rolled down Magnolia.
981 W Magnolia Av, Ste D, FW. 817-367-9807. Sun 9am-9pm, Mon-Fri 7am-9pm, Sat 9am-9pm. All major credit cards accepted.
Veggie quesadilla ……………… $5.99
Fish tacos ………………………… $7.50
Posole ……………………………… $3.99
Fajita tacos ………………………. $7.99
Desebrada or chicken tacos . $1.99 each
Side of rice and beans ………. $1.50
Flan …………………………………. $2.25