by Danielle Leahy photos by Jacque Manaugh
Before I begin my year end review of the top 5 gourmet tacos in Dallas I’d like to offer a few caveats. First of all I’m not a food reviewer, I’m a taco club founder and manager. I bring groups of people together (often strangers) to eat tacos and have fun. Most of the places we visit are because they have been recommended or have recieved plenty of buzz. The locations must be able to hold groups of twenty-plus Tacobots. That alone can cross a lot of the smaller taco stands, gas stations, or far away locations off the list.
That said I present to you what are in my opinion the five best gourmet tacos in Dallas as well as some my favorite places to grab a taco in the city. These are the locations the Tacobots had the most fun and enjoyed the best, and isn’t that what it’s all about? If you are looking to try something new or have friends in town wanting to see what Dallas has to offer on this burgeoning nation food trend of upscale tacos might the Tacobots suggest…
#5 The Chicken Taco at Cedar’s Social
Two Dollar Taco Tuesdays at Cedar’s Social is one of our favorite days of the week. The ambiance is sultry, the drinks are some of the best crafted in Dallas, and the back patio offers one of the greatest views of the city skyline available. The Chicken Taco at the Cedar’s Social consists of stewed and shredded chicken smothered in a spicy jalapeno and tomato based sauce and is topped with fresh cilantro. The taco is rich and deeply flavored and by far the best tasting and juiciest chicken taco we tried all year.
The rest of their tacos are pretty freaking great as well. Cedars offers a rotation of two to three weekly tacos (written on the glass wall in the main dining room, so be sure to check) as well as the permanent Short Rib Taco. Cedar Social makes tacos (and everything else they serve) sexy. Full review here.
#4 The Brisket Taco at Mextopia
Richard Avila’s Brisket Taco has long been a Dallas staple. Famously featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives the Avila Family is no stranger to the Dallas Tex-Mex scene. Having opened his own restaurant off Greenville Ave, Mextopia quickly made a name for itself as the best Mexican food on the block. Their Brisket Taco is no exception. Absolutely loaded with beef these tacos are huge. Smoky, velvety taste and with a sprinkle of lettuce, tomato, and onion on the side this is a taco you have to taste to believe.
Very few people can send a taco with nothing but meat out on a four tortilla and call it any good. Richard Avila can call it one of the best in Dallas. Mextopia features its quirky, free bacon happy hour (with the purchase of a drink of course), a bright and cheery interior, and a great patio area out front. Mextopia is the kind of neighborhood restaurant you feel right at home. They also offer a $2 Taco Tuesday on both their brisket and chicken soft tacos so be sure to check them out soon.
#3 The SoCo at Good2Go
If there was a level above gourmet, Good2Go would be hovering around that. In my last review I called them artisan tacos. I stand by that claim. The Southern Comfort Taco is one of the best breakfast tacos in Dallas, period. Starting with mounds of fluffy scrambled eggs, the taco is covered in pork breakfast sausage and cheddar cheese, then smothered in biscuits with pork country gravy and wrapped in a huge flour tortilla. This is a taco that can take two to eat. Then again, why would you share something this amazing? Good2Go isn’t where the creativity ends, it’s where it begins.
The Hotlanta (waffle battered chicken with sweet potatoes powdered sugar) and the Paris (probably the best tasting steak in any steak taco in Dallas) are just a few more fantastic examples of tacos on the menu. With Goodfriends Beer Garden right next store and White Rock Lake just around the corner Good2Go is a great place to start out any weekend morning. Just be sure to be there before it closes at 3pm.
#2 The #20 at Velvet Taco
I’m a red meat kind of girl, I’ll admit it. Given the choice nine times out of ten I’m going to order the steak taco so my first visit to Velvet Taco was few exceptions. But from that point all comparisons to normal steak tacos end. Featuring handmade tortillas (3 different kinds), locally sourced produce, and over 20 different tacos per week, Velvet Taco landed with an atom-bomb of publicity when it opened at Knox-Henderson and I75 this year.
Taking over an old Church’s Chicken walk-up and selling rotisserie chickens meals out the back door the guys behind Twin Peaks brought gourmet tacos to the Dallas masses, and did it in a way that kept it’s soul. It has also kept a large part of my paycheck this year since Velvet Taco happens to be on my daily commute home.
So let’s talk about the #20. Made with grilled flank steak, egg, herbed goat cheese, crispy purple potato chips, arugula for bite, and pico on top, this taco is the perfect balance of texture and flavor. As the goat cheese melts into the warm flank steak the egg helps to soften it’s sharp saltiness and the arugula’s bitter bite. Peruvian purple potatoes offered a crispiness and crunch to the otherwise soft taco, and the pico on top added just the right amount of spice and acid to keep the flavors well melded together. This taco represents what every great combo should be. When six great ingredients come together and perform even better as one then they ever could have been alone.
#1 The Crab Claw Swanky Taco at LaGrange
I have had dreams about the Crab Claw Taco at LaGrange. Honest to goodness waken-up-sad-because-I-realized-I-didn’t-actually-have-a-crab-claw-taco-in-front-of-me dreams. Pictures of it can make me salivate like one of Pavlov’s puppies. Hell writing about it is having the same effect.
The owner’s of LaGrange had a lot riding on their first “Swanky” Taco when we visited back in July. They had given up their day jobs to fulfill their dream of running a live music venue and restaurant and the future of their success rested on the recently finished complete revamp of their entire menu into a taco bar. So the owner’s offered the Tacobots a sneak peak at the first of their new weekly taco features, and in a single bite a taco became a beacon, a rallying cry, and a victory yell.
The Crab Claw Swanky Taco at LaGrange is the best offering our city has in the emerging Gourmet taco trend. It is everything a specialty taco should be: unique ingredients, high quality produce, well thought our flavor combinations, and with a number of salsas to chose from giving you the chance to customize the flavour and spice as you see fit. Gourmet taco bars listen up, we want more salsas dammit.
Huge chunks of succulent crab meat, sweet roasted corn, crunchy red cabbage, and creamy avocado with pico, cheese, and their peach chiptole on top had these tacos re-defining the state of affairs in Dallas for most of the Tacobots. Wait, that’s not the kicker, all of La Grange’s tacos are amazing — all of them. They have eight normal options to choose from: Buffalo Brisket, Beef Brisket, Ground Beef, Cilantro Lime Chicken, Pork Verde, Blackened Tilapia, Mushroom Poblano, and Pinto Bean Poblano. And at only $3 a piece for Swanky and $2 for the regular tacos, LaGrange managed to do to what no other place on this list has attempted; La Grange made cheap gourmet tacos easy to come by any day of the week.
Stayed tuned next week for my list of the Top 5 Street Tacos in Dallas! As always, if you would like to join us for a Meetup and become a member of the crazy taco loving club we call the Tacobots just find us on Facebook, we’d love to have you!