In this season of festivals, none spoke to my heart more directly than El Fuerte – The 2nd Annual Fort Worth Taco Fest. Never mind that the Cinco de Mayo party was on May 6. Never mind that no one in Mexico celebrates Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that commemorates the Mexican army beating up on the French, which just sounds like good fun. Never mind that my employer Fort Worth Weekly produces the annual event held at The Shack at Panther Island Pavilion. I can still in good conscience heap praise on the people who sign my checks – in this case, anyway.
Unlike some other taco festivals to the east and south that present a cartoon version of Mexican culture, El Fuerte was a classy, Chamber of Commerce-approved affair, with mariachi, a kid’s area, games, dogs, and family fun. It was the kind of event that unites a city, not one that marginalizes Latin culture with luchadores and veiled hipster racism.
This year, the more than 1,500 folks in attendance got to vote on the best overall taco showing, and Del Norte Tacos’ tender brisket offering (101 TX-171, Godley, 817-389-2451) was the peoples’ choice.
A panel of judges doled out the rest of the awards. The big winner was Keller steakhouse Texas Bleu (124 S Main St, Keller, 817-431-5188) and its chef Stefon Rischel, who won the categories of best salsa and best traditional taco. Reservoir – Bar, Patio & Kitchen (1001 Foch St, 817-334-056) got the nod for best tortillas; its West 7th development neighbor Tortaco Meson Mezcal (910 Currie St, 682-990-0735) wowed the judges with its presentation of blue corn tortillas; and northern ’burb outpost Bad Azz Burrito (1200 S Blue Mound Rd, 817-847-5511) won the judges’ award for best in show.
Two of the better taco joints in town were conspicuously absent from the party. Taco Heads (1812 Montgomery St, 817-615-9899) had a huge catering event on the same day as the festival, so that’s an excused absence. Revolver Taco Lounge (2418 Forest Park Blvd, 817-820-0122) is apparently still stinging from a review I wrote five years ago (“Shooting Themselves in the Foot,” May 30, 2012). Since that review, I’ve written several other glowing accounts of the place (“Upscale, Down, Second Time Around,” March 13, 2013, “Recommending Revolver,” Feb 3, 2016) and Revolver has won numerous Weekly Best Of awards. So what do you say, Revolver? Can we be friends? We’ll save you a spot at next year’s Taco Fest either way.
I was surprised that local favorite Salsa Limón (multiple locations) didn’t win anything, but maybe my unhealthy obsession with the mini-chain’s El Capitan taco, tender steak on a buttery flour tortilla, gooey cheese, and fresh-tasting cabbage, is probably one of 4,540 reasons I wasn’t asked to judge. Also, I think a few of the restaurants involved have put out hits on me for past reviews (sorry-not-sorry).
If you missed the festivities, the Weekly will certainly be throwing another bash next year. Thanks to everyone who showed face and stuffed it with delicious tacos.