The tacos at Urban Taco are pricier ( $2.75+) than the usual walk-up taqueria. (Paraiso, in the pre-Restoration District on Jefferson, will sell you 20 average tasting tacos for $15). However, Urban Taco is not all about tacos. It’s not about “urban” either, in any established sense. Urban Taco is a complete concept and an example of the upscale taco boom going on across the country right now. Meredith Stein already reported on the recent media dinner at the new uptown location and, as her article makes clear, we didn’t get to eat a taco until the fourth course of our six-course feast.
I thought it might be helpful to summarize some of the differences between Urban Taco and a conventional taqueria. Jump with me, please.
For example, Tacos El Guero in East Dallas.
As you enter Urban Taco, the valet offers to take your car. At Tacos El Guero, the ‘valet’ takes your car – but doesn’t return it.
At Urban Taco the décor is modern, edgy and all smooth surfaces. At Tacos El Guero the décor carries the patina of old paint in a restaurant environment that was hurriedly applied when it was new.
At Urban Taco they have tint on the windows. At Tacos El Guero they have iron bars filigree on the windows.
At Urban Taco you can choose up to 11 salsas ranging from roasted peanut habanero to lime crema. Three dollars for the first three, twenty five cents for each additional one. At Tacos El Guero you have two choices of salsa – red or green. No charge for the first cup. Extras 25 cents.
At Urban Taco they accept American Express. At Tacos El Guero they accept pesos (and even North Korean currency).
At Urban Taco an unusual but authentic Mexican recipe is Panela Asado (olive oil and oregano roasted panela cheese). At Tacos El Guero an unusual but authentic Mexican recipe is chori-queso (chorizo layered with melted white cheese).
At Urban Taco all the guys seem to be wearing suits. At Tacos El Guero the only guy with a suit is outside, pushing a supermarket cart, and the suit appears to be four sizes too big.
At Urban Taco there are exotic ingredients like Dos XX Equis chile braised beef, shrimp, and red snapper. At Tacos El Guero there are exotic ingredients like intestine, tongue and cow head (you can choose whether the eye, ear or cheek is your preference).
At Urban Taco they have an extensive bar and a line of custom cocktails. At Tacos El Guero you BYOB. However, you can’t drink it inside as the place is a sublet from the adjoining liquor store. You must drink your Negro Modelo or Château Lafite Rothschild outside.
At Urban Taco the neighborhood is transitional. At Tacos El Guero the neighborhood is transitional.
At Urban Taco they serve Mexican coke. At Tacos El Guero they serve Mexican coke.
At Urban Taco the patrons are fanatical about the place. At Tacos El Guero the patrons are fanatical about the place.
The interior floor space at Tacos El Guero is smaller than the men’s bathroom at Urban Taco.
Seriously, they both serve their respective marketplaces well. Urban Taco makes more of the canvas of Mexican cuisine accessible to a clientele raised on Tex-Mex. Many of the recipes are authentic. They do make tortillas on the premises (but made the mistake of not making the process public by putting up a glass window into the kitchen) whereas too many places use supermarket tortillas. They also make their extensive salsa selection and several guacamole styles on the premises. Plans call for other Urban Tacos, modeled on the Uptown location, to roll out soon.