Yesterday a murder of crows media descended on attended a preview luncheon at the new Urban Taco location on McKinney Avenue. Our representative, Meredith Stein, feasted on a freebies and files this report.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: I am, by no means, a food critic.
As a college student who makes just enough bank to pay rent and bills, a free meal equals a good meal, as far as I’m concerned. And that’s exactly what I got today at Markus Pineyro’s new McKinney Avenue eatery, Urban Taco. But, luckily for me, this particular meal was quite a step up from my homemade spaghetti with Prego sauce and typically low food standards…
(Jump for her joy.)
The first to arrive at the newly-opened restaurant’s media luncheon (other than the two lovely PR ladies who were quick to greet me), I took a seat at the long table they’d set for 10 and allowed myself to just breathe in my surroundings.
Contemporary furnishings set to a backdrop of catchy South-of-the-border beats filled the interior. On the wall just above the table where I was seated was the most peculiar, yet wonderful piece of artwork – a cluster of white cubes, three-by-four, with a rainbow assortment of cacti protruding from the centers (seriously, go check it out). Several black glass orbs hung inconspicuously above the table, lighting the area. Outside the front of the restaurant was an eye-catching patio, complete with bright orange umbrellas to complement the green-orange-red sign – a beacon to hungry customers (which, by the way, appeared to be plentiful. And that’s always a good sign, I noted to myself).
As the other guests arrived, I ordered a Mexican Coke ($2) – you know, the ones made of 39 savory grams of pure cane sugar. On my right, Dallas Voice’s Life+Style Editor, Arnold Wayne Jones, took the tequila route and sipped on a Hibiscus Margarita ($8.50), deeming it “good.”
Now I have to warn you, taco enthusiasts – this isn’t your everyday Tex-Mex taco joint. In fact, you won’t find an ounce of Tex-Mex inside its doors, Pineyro adamantly claims. “What we call ourselves is more of a modern Mexican cuisine, which is a new movement of food that’s going on not only in Mexico, but in [America], as well,” says the 24-year-old Mexico City native and SMU grad. In crafting each of his tasty creations (which, are all Urban Taco originals, made in-house), he uses traditional methods of Mexican cooking, while adding his own modern twist.
And, despite the taco craze that has hit us all, Pineyro considers his restaurant, which first opened in Mockingbird Station three years ago, “the original taqueria.”
“We see ourselves as more of the pioneer versus the bandwagon,” he states proudly. “Three years ago, people weren’t really familiar with barbacoa.”
As I sipped on my Coke, the 11 different salsas made their way to our table first. While I was told that the Rooster Pico was the spiciest on the menu, the table unanimously agreed that the Roasted Peanut Habanero had a unique sort of burn that snuck up on your taste buds. My favorites included the Roasted Peanut Habanero, the Avocado Lime Crema, and the Tomatillo Serrano (because its sweet flavor gave my tongue a break from the heat). You can try all three, or any other combination, with the Salsa Trio ($3).
Next came the guacamoles, which were all delicious and so-adorably named after popular streets in Mexico. The Polanco ($8), with its pineapple-y undertones and plantain chips for dipping, was my favorite. Then, we were introduced to the ceviches. The clear winner at the table was the Ceviche Verde ($12). The coconut passion fruit jalapeno sauce gives this dish the perfect, balanced kick of tangy and spicy.
But let’s cut to the chase. If you are going to order any one item at Urban Taco, it needs to be the Dos Equis Amber Barbacoa taco ($2.75). Braised in Dos Equis Amber beer, the tender beef is topped with black beans, roasted corn pico, and pickled red onions. I’m afraid I can’t bust out any food connoisseur terminology for you, but I’ll leave you, instead, with these three words: muy, muy bueno.