First Look: Tortaco Opens in Downtown Dallas
The gist: Firebird Restaurant Group (El Fenix, Meso Maya, Taqueria La Ventana, Snuffer's) continues its concept expansion throughout North Texas with the Dallas opening of Tortaco. The Downtown spot, at the edge of the Dallas Arts District, debuted just weeks after the first Tortaco launched in Fort Worth. The surprisingly affordable offerings ($4 tacos, $6 tortas, $8 mezcal cocktails) should be a huge hit with business folk looking to lunch downtown without dropping $30.
The food: The focused menu features three familiar offerings: tacos, tortas and bowls. The fillings, however, are anything but ordinary thanks to the creative gifts of chef Nico Sanchez, who still leads the kitchen at Meso Maya. Among the 10 torta and taco fillings, surefire hits include seared beef tenderloin with black truffle aïoli and crimini mushrooms, house-smoked brisket burnt ends with golden barbecue sauce and roasted jalapeños, a breakfast option with egg whites, thick-cut bacon and avocado (pictured at top of story) and tempura-battered white fish with Fuji apples, spicy rémoulade, fresh tomatoes and sliced avocado (pictured above).
All bowls feature serrano-spiked jasmine rice as a base and additional ingredients similar to that of their taco and torta counterparts. For instance, the tenderloin bowl has all the same toppings, but adds roasted butternut squash, sweet potatoes and bone marrow jus — something that would definitely create a sad, soggy experience in taco form. Other bowls branch out with creative flavors, such as the pork kimchi with fried raisins, butternut squash, pickled red onions and roasted poblanos, and the sliced yellowtail hamachi (pictured above), accompanied by charred pineapple, red wine–pickled onions, pickled ginger, wild arugula and soy-lime jalapeño ponzu.
Categorized simply as "Other Stuff," starters, side dishes and salads top out at $7 for the luxurious roasted crab dip. Decadent sides of roasted cauliflower (pictured above) and macaroni and cheese both feature melted Vermont sharp white cheddar as ooey-gooey shareable dishes that pleasantly replace the Tex-Mex side-dish tradition of rice and beans. The addition of pineapple and goat cheese make the ceviche a unique variation, too.
The drinks: Mezcal features prominently on the cocktail list, appearing in every specialty creation, from the Flux (a variation on an Old Fashioned) to the Dirty Sanchez (pictured above, foreground), which features oven-roasted pineapple, triple sec, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. The Stinky Inky (pictured above, left) can be ordered frozen or on the rocks. The sweet blend of dark rum, mezcal joven, blueberry-strawberry purée and fresh squeezed lime makes for a nice entry-level cocktail in the smoky-flavored world of mezcal. Eleven beers and 11 wines round out the boozy offerings.
The space: Regulars of the old San Salvaje by Stephan Pyles will hardly recognize what the Tortaco design team has done since taking over the space. The far more casual interior features distressed concrete floors, heavy chains above the bar (pictured above) and a motorcycle near the dining room that's already proven to be a popular selfie centerpiece. A huge patio on Ross offers views of the beautiful Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in one direction and the towering skyscrapers in all others.
The details: Tortaco opens for lunch and dinner service Monday to Thursday, 11AM–9PM; Friday and Saturday, 11AM–11PM. It's currently closed on Sunday, but that will change when brunch launches. There's valet, garage or meter parking available.
2100 Ross Ave., #100; 469-998-7342
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All photos courtesy Tortaco