Saturday, August 9, 2008

FOOD CZAR REVIEW #31: TACO DINER

If you think you have a handle on what Mexican food is all about, you've got another think coming. Tex-Mex is, of course, one of the National Cuisines of Texas, and its "Love on the plate and lard in the skillet" philosophy, is slowly changing (not for the better, some say) to accomodate lighter tastes. Ari-Cal Mex, a staple in the desert Southwest, incorporates fresh green chilis into the mix, and is still hearty, but with a touch more finesse. Corporate Mex (upscale) and Bar Mex (downscale) were pulled from the other Mexes by the restaurant and tavern industries, respectively---mostly the basics done with upscale ingredients in the former, while the latter is mostly variations of nachos, fajitas, and quesadillas, just right for appetizers when you've got the drinkin' munchies. Finally, we have the cuisines of Mexico, which would need entire volumes to cover them all--from the fishes of Veracruz to the endless varieties of street tacos in Mexico City. Taco Diner is mostly concerned with the latter, and since I hold all great cuisine dear, I decided to spend one recent Saturday lunch exploring the Plano outpost of this five-store chain, with my lovely wife the Rock Star and her appetite in tow.

ATMOSPHERE

Mexico post-New-Millenium Industrial Revolution. Classic movie posters. Open kitchen. Smallish space. Wall niches with vases. Very Now, not Last Week. My bride and I were seated immediately (all the service from tostadas to check, was muy rapido yet felt leisurely) where Juan took charge of us.

FOOD

I think it's one of those famous Laws of Old Texas: complimentary chips and salsa must be brought to the table of any Mexican restaurant immediately upon the seating of guests, no ifs, ands, or buts. I am happy to report that Taco Diner is in full compliance: chips were fresh, lite, and crispy and not one but two salsas were brought. The red was full-bodied with just a touch of sweetness; the green with a bite of lingering spice. I preferred the green but did not love either one. Thankfully, I ordered a cup of queso; you should do the same, as the perfect, plentiful cup held lots of good flavor with an almost Rotel finish. After intense perusement of the menu, my wife decided on the chicken tacos al pastor. Chicken breast marinated in anchote citrus marinade and served in soft corn tortillas with sides of lime, (which must be utilized to bring out the subtle spice of the meat), these tacos were light and refreshing, yet strangely filling despite their smallish size. Since they come four to an order, I decided on two bistec and two la parilla, grilled beef and pork, respectively, both marinated in olive oil, garlic and salt (add pepper for the pork). These simple preparations made for some very nice pork tacos but really worked wonders for the beef, so much so that the Rock Star was continually poaching off my plate, giving them the ultimate compliment when she declared, "I should have ordered that!" Since we had decimated the cup of queso, and as noted before, the tacos were quite filling, there was no room at the inn for dessert.

SERVICE & WEBSITE

Juan proved to be more than capable, always available without hovering, even thoughtfully pointing out the restroom when it was needed. (Be forwarned: It's a singleton, with one of those red/green occupied signs just like in the airplanes.) Taco Diner is part of the MCrowd group of restaurants; just enter the URL http://www.mcrowd.com/ to get in with the MCrowd (as Dobie Gray would have it.)

OVERALL

Expand your Hispanic food horizons with Taco Diners delicious take on the United Mexican States capitol city's cuisine. Please do so soon, and as always:

LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!

3 comments:

Margie said...

I really need to try this place. Of course, no need to wonder about which ones to try... beef! The availability of good food in Dallas seems endless, doesn' it?

Food Czar said...

Yes, Margie, particularly compared to when we were growing up. In business terms, back then it was a sellers market. There just weren't that many places to eat out because so many people back then cooked and ate all their meals at home. For instance, our Saturday treat gowing up was Whataburgers or the occasional cafeteria. How times have changed!!!

michelle said...

how wonderful. i love taco diner. i like to get the tres tacos and mix up which ones i choose. chicken al pastor is one of the best though :)

glad you liked it!!