Food & Drink Wrenchilada 

Taco Garage gives Tex-Mex standards an overhaul

Two very large tin chickens rule the roost at Taco Garage, a colorfully painted tacos-y-más joint converted from a decommissioned Brake Check. "We found them in San Miguel de Allende," says Monterrey-born Jose Luis, one of the new enterprise's partners, "and at every checkpoint on the way back we had to unwrap them. `The inspectors` always wanted to know why we couldn't have found something properly painted." The rust spots showing through only added appeal in the partners' eyes, however, and the formidable fowl seem right at home in the worm-like nest of air conditioning ducts that dominates the ceiling space. (The parking lot is presided over by an American icon: an aging Cadillac, fins at the rear and the better part of a longhorn steer adorning the radiator.)

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Inside the Taco Garage (Photos by Melissa Santos)

The pair of pollos is about the only thing in the place, apart from mirrors and ceramic basins in the lavatories, that smacks of San Miguel. The menu, just like the horned Caddy, is puro Tex-Mex - right down to the Big Red that comes with the Garibay breakfast plate. Not being a Big Red booster, I substituted a Topo Chico apple soda. The snappy apple flavor cut right across the richness of a mound of lush and nearly greaseless barbacoa and played devil's advocate to the rewarding refried beans. Eggs your choice (I picked revueltos) and fried cubed potatoes completed the plate. The red and green table sauces, good on eggs, potatoes, and menudo alike, are mucho mejor que many others, with the red showing traces of garlic and cumin.

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Nachos Compuestos with cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and jalapeños with a Topo Chico soda makes for a satisfying lunch.

The breakfast plates, served all day, include machacado and chicharron (already depleted by noon on my visit), and there's a list of tacos on house-made corn or flour tortillas. Standard fare, at first glance, and the same can be said for the rest of the menu: enchiladas, carne guisada, a combo plate with cheese enchiladas, and a crispy taco. The difference is in the execution. A small bowl of tortilla soup was loaded with chicken, afloat with large slices of avocado, and packed with flavor. Nachos, of the two-tone cheese variety, are individually assembled, an important distinction, and though the guacamole served with the compuesto models needed more spunk - lime, salt, cilantro - the complete package was good enough that, even with all the food to come, we were sorely tempted to finish the plate.

The Lunch Special, shrimp tacos with shredded cabbage and wedges of avocado in a quasi-crisp corn tortilla, was served with a creamy chipotle sauce that was just picante enough to give the grilled shrimp a lift without overwhelming them. The borracho beans that accompanied the tacos were among best of breed, and even the ubiquitous Mexican rice, though not noticeably enriched with carrot, tomato, or any other add-ins, had good flavor and texture. Thumbs up to the tortillas, too, with the flour a tad more convincing than the corn in true Tex-Mex fashion.

Taco Garage
8403 Broadway
7am.-3pm daily
Price range: $5-7
Credit cards
Wheelchair accessible
When Taco Garage is even a little inventive the results are more mixed. Their "carnitas," for example, are beef rather than the usual pork. They're cooked on the griddle with a pico de gallo mix with tasty results, but the cubes of top sirloin were chewy. I cast a vote to add baked or deep-fried succulent pork and hold out hope for this and more when the restaurant's evening hours kick in. A small bar now sits empty and expectant at the entry (whose door handles are fashioned from low-rider steering wheels); an official form posted in the window advises us that Taco Garage has applied for a permit to sell alcoholic beverages. If one day there are as many tequilas available here as currently there are south-of-the-border sodas (including Mexican Coke), watchale 'mano - those writhing AC ducts may prove prophetic.



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