Restaurants

Complex Flavors and Simple Concept Make Taco Republic a Winner

The minds behind Bread & Butter Concepts create another success story with exciting ingredients and casual atmosphere.

Story by Andrew Schiller

As news of this new restaurant began appearing, two things excited me as a long-time resident of Midtown: 1) The eyesore gas station that seemed to forever squat on the northwest corner of Westwood was getting a facelift, and 2) Decent tacos were now within walking distance.

The first of my wishes was granted around mid-summer, as the final remnants of the old fuel stop opposite Oklahoma Joe’s was stripped away and built over. What replaced it was a colorful mix of geometric pillars, walls, and tables of wood set among soft green, chrome and curves of turf, brick and lawn chairs.

The second wish came last night, a few days after opening night. The opening night frenzy provided curious customers a headache-inducing 3 hour wait for a table, as the smallish kitchen struggled to serve items without physical or financial disaster. However, the wait seemed to be worth it.

Photos by Chandra Ramey

After checking in with the hostess, we received our card and a wait time that allowed us just the right amount of minutes to enjoy our well-crafted margaritas. We went for the basic Casa, in a pint glass made with Cabrito, fresh limes and agave simple. Before we got adventurous with the high-end Lunazul Royals, our card was called.

Being a spicy salsa fan, details like the large bottle of complimentary roja salsa was a welcome sight. I can wait for the waiter to bring the next basket of chips, but salsa must be within arms reach at all times if we’re on the same ticket. After making quick work of the $2 basket of thick and thin mixed chips and a bowl of the fresh and spicy verde, we moved on to the main event.

We picked five types of taco out of the available 15. The beef, chicken, pork, fish and veggie styles all had some interesting variations. Two stood out over the rest, even though each had personality. The Del Mar fish taco had some serious mojo seeping through the blackened tilapia, garlic sauce, guacamole, and pico de gallo. It was hard not to pull another from the pond, but our plates were full and waiting.

The standout of the night had to be the Cochinita Pibil, a deft pairing of roasted pork chunks, pickled onions and cut tostones (fried plantains). Not too salty, with just the right amount of tart plantain texture seemed to make it the perfect companion to our margaritas.

Once you’re greeted with a smile, make sure to order the wood-fired chicken that comes with charro beans, rice and tortillas. Get there early though, because once it’s gone, you don’t get another chance until tomorrow.

Since so much of the seating at Taco Republic is outside, it’s hard to tell how the experience will shift as the summer heat fades away. Inside, the restaurant seems to have about fifteen tables of varying size and a cozy bar. Hopefully the heat lamps (tucked way up into the corners of the 18 foot ceilings outside) will be able to keep the atmosphere manageable, but once the holidays are here, it might be wise to call way ahead to secure an indoor spot.