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At Urban Taco in Dallas It’s Not About The Tacos

Urban Taco tacos as conceived by Georgia O'Keefe

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.

26 comments on “At Urban Taco in Dallas It’s Not About The Tacos

  1. What no drug running joke? It’s the only Mexican stereotype you missed.

    What a weak attempt at humor.

  2. It’s telling that another D Magazine employee finds this biotry “hilarious.” When are you going to serve up the Negro, Oriental and Paki jokes?

  3. I can only hope this is an attempt to spoof snooty food bloggers. If not, it’s offensive on so many levels.

  4. Relax everyone. It was funny. Lighten up. (And an accurate review of the food, might I add.)

  5. Probably none of those making comments has ever or would ever go off the beaten track to the wonderful Tacos El Guero to sample some of the best tacos in town. The reviewer obviously is willing to go anywhere and everywhere to find the best and then write a witty amusing review. I thought is was a great piece and hopefully it will bring business to an offbeat location. Thumbs up for El Guero.

  6. My 2-year-old son and I went to Urban Taco for the first time recently. Had to see what all the hubbub was about. The mole taco was poisonous, and the little guy, who loves pork, wouldn’t touch the carnitas after one bite. We didn’t stay long.

  7. Get real folks. Having been to, and love El Guero, I cast my vote for funny and very clever.

  8. I’m going to add this here, rather than in the best taco post from last week…
    Dallas taco shops are awful! I have lived here for more than 15 years and have seen most of the places come and go. It would be so great if one of San Diego’s line of taco shops, that have been making their way east, could find a location in Dallas to call home. For those of you that have never experienced carne asada the San Diego way, it is a taco shop experience that will never be matched. In SD, there is always competition between Roberto’s and Sombrero’s, but both BURY anything I’ve tasted in Dallas.

  9. Egads! I don’t know who is more ethnocentric – Californians or New Yorkers! One gripes about lack of deli and one gripes about tacos, hamburgers and the lack of a Trader Joe’s! It’s Dallas, uniquely Dallas. I used to get a little miffed about not being able to find really good New Orleans sytle French bread, but I got over it years ago!

  10. @Jason; Get over it. I’m sooooo tired of hearing about the misgivings ex-pat Californians and New Yawkers have with Dallas’ food.
    If you don’t like what we have here, either open up a restaurant that serves what you and the other 20 odd ex-pats complain about or go back to wherever it was you enjoyed what you ate years ago and eat it again, there.
    I’m originally from NYC and I love the food we have in Dallas. I came here in 1963 when there was nothing that even came close to resembling the pizza, Italian, deli, Chinese food and all the other ethnic foods I had been accustomed to growing up in NYC. All I can say is, we’ve come a long, long way since then. And I’m a very happy camper now.
    So, stop your bitching about Dallas’ restaurants and the type of foods they serve and be thankful you didn’t first come here 47 years ago!

  11. Jason and the other 20 odd Californians will probably be the first in line when the new In-N-Out Burger opens next year. That should keep them quiet and happy for a minute or so.

  12. As a guy who travels a lot for business, I don’t really understand how anyone can identify regional differences in food. The entire country has become so homogenized that you can find practically anything almost everywhere. It’s always funny to hear someone say, “There’s a Whataburger! I’ve heard they’re the best!” I recall reading about people from Dallas who would make special trips out-of-state to eat at Steakburger. Now we have Steakburger and I know of at least one location (Caruth and Central) that didn’t last a year. I’m sure I’ve had In-N-Out, but I don’t remember anything about it. After hearing about Trader Joe’s, I checked one out in Maryland last year and it didn’t do a thing for me. It seems like anything that we don’t have gains an unwarranted mystique.