The Spanish word banqueta means “sidewalk,” and the sign outside Tacos La Banqueta reads “Puro DF,” which signals that the cuisine is purely in the style of Mexico’s Distrito Federal, or Mexico City. The capital has a great tradition of street food that pulls in influences from all over the country, and this new eatery on Hemphill Street just south of the railroad tracks (one of four locations in North Texas) brings a taste of that to our city.
Tacos la Banqueta
2621 Hemphill St, FW. 817-923-8846. 9am-11pm Mon-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
The boarded-up drive-thru window is a sign of this location’s past as a fast-food joint. If you value atmosphere in a restaurant, you won’t get it here. The décor doesn’t go beyond a few Mexican knickknacks, and the vinyl on some of the booth seats is cracking. The plate-glass windows at least let in lots of light during the day, but after dark, you won’t be able to see anything beyond the place’s parking lot. The crowd on busy nights at least appears lively, but at slower times, the TV in the corner blares too loudly. I saw Big Momma’s House, Braveheart, and last year’s Hercules while I was there — this place badly needs some tips from me about updating its DVD collection. If you come with kids, you may have a tough time keeping them from watching Mel Gibson get tortured by the English.
The food, though, is something else. The tacos are served on double layers of corn tortillas that are about the size of a drink coaster, so if you’re hungry enough, you can sample every kind of taco that the kitchen serves. This is good because they serve some cuts of meat that would likely send the upscale taquería crowd running for cover — if you dig the funky flavor of beef tongue, you are in luck here. I preferred the beef head tacos, with their juicy chunks of deeply flavorful meat. The chicken tacos were a solid non-cow option, and the chorizo (popped loose from their skins) provided a welcome dose of powdery heat. All of the tacos were served under a shower of chopped onions and cilantro, with a thick wedge of lime for squeezing.
Tacos al pastor are also available, and anything with this savory combination of pineapple-marinated pork and beef is worth getting. I had the plate of two gorditas al pastor, with their kaleidoscopic flavor that seemed to shift with each bite. They were served with crumbled dry Monterey Jack on corn tortillas that were fried to a delicate crisp, which makes it a good entry for diners looking for just a light meal.
Frying seems to be another thing that this restaurant does particularly well. Their quesadilla frita was also crispy on the outside while maintaining its light and airy texture within. The cheese inside wasn’t overwhelmed by the pastor meat, either. This delectable entrée was served with a side of shredded iceberg lettuce with more crumbled Monterey Jack and sour cream drizzled over the top. The side item could have used some diced tomato, but for the low price of $6, I can’t complain.
Besides tap water, everything to drink at this restaurant comes from a bottle — there isn’t even freshly brewed iced tea. If you want flavor, you’ll have to wash down your food with Mexican sodas or with the aguas frescas that the restaurant keeps cold. I had the Jamaica (hibiscus) flavor, which wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet even though I could tell it was loaded with sugar. The dessert menu consists of only plain flan and cheesecake (which wasn’t available when I visited), so perhaps your soda can be your dessert, or you can avail yourself of the candies that are for sale near the cash register.
Tacos la Banqueta may be short on creature comforts, but as an outpost of authentic Mexican cuisine or as a cuchara grasa for a quick, inexpensive meal, you won’t do much better.
[box_info]Tacos la Banqueta
Tacos (1) $1-1.75
Gorditas (2) $6
Quesadilla frita $6
Large agua fresca $2.50[/box_info]