On Sept. 4, our Bud Kennedy reported (scroll down) that Jason Boso would close Cowboy Chow in Roanoke and reopen it Sept. 17 as Tacos & Avocados. In what seems to be an increasing rarity in the restaurant biz, Boso hit his target date, although it must have helped that he already had a space for the restaurant.
When we were greeted by Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit blasting out of the sound system instead of country music, we knew that Tacos & Avocados was trying to separate itself from the Cowboy Chow image, although the sidewalk bar and fireplace are still there. The south wall now has a mural paying tribute to lucha libre and paletas, and there's a self-serve paleta cart right as you walk in. Although we didn't indulge, we peeked in, to see paletas that looked charmingly like the kind of homemade popsicles we made as kids.
T&A -- yes, there's more to the Tacos & Avocados name than food -- is an order-at-the-counter place with a modest but imaginative menu. There are 11 soft tacos available, most of them $3 apiece, except for the ribeye steak taco ($4) and the bison brisket ($5). You order by number -- uno through diez for the meat tacos, cero for the veggie (clever). Tacos & Avoacdos recommends ordering two individual tacos and one specialty -- a choice of three types of "smashed avocado" (why is the word "mashed" vanishing from food lingo?). three quesos (including a half & half that's part queso, part guacamole) or sides including elote, avocado fries, ceviche or a Mexican dinner salad.
During a lunch visit Tuesday, I went for the braised brisket and fried chicken tacos (the uno and the siete, respectively). The braised brisket comes with salsa, jack cheese and lime sour cream on a flour tortilla. The "lime cream" didn't have much lime flavor, and the sour cream overwhelmed the first few bites, but once it was out of the way, the tender meatiness of the brisket and the spiciness of the salsa began to come through. The fried chicken was more of a hit: it's basically a wing taco, the chicken coming with red-pepper sauce, blue cheese crumbles and pickled carrots on a flower tortilla. Good kick to the meat, and all the other ingredients melded together noticeably and pleasantly rather than having one dominate.
For a side, I took a risk on the "holy guacamole" ($2.50) -- smashed avocado, pineapple chunks, mole sauce and bacon. The pineapple took control of this one, with some avocado flavor coming through and the sauce and bacon not that noticeable, even though there were bits of the latter all over the thing. The chips that accompanied the dip were too flimsy and a little greasy; I wound up using a fork, and despite finding the dish uneven, I did finish it. It helps that its truly individual size, but its virtues outweighed its flaws.
My wife ordered the veggie tacos, with chef's avocado and elote on the side. The veggies consist of fried avocado, slaw and lime cream on a corn tortilla. Because the avocado is fried, it has texture instead of just being something mushy inside a tortilla, and the slaw also provided some nice crunch. But as she pointed out -- and I noticed this, too -- this place is already heavy on avocado; vegetarians are likely to order one of the guacamoles, so it would be nice to have another veggie option in the tacos. The chef's avocado ($2.50) -- a guac with tomatillo, grilled Fresno peppers, lime and pepitas -- had a lot of depth, with the spices coming through well and a generous sprinkling of pepitas, which she loves. She liked the elote ($2), too, but she though the corn wasn't as fresh as it could have been.
When Boso announced the change from Cowboy Chow to a taqueria, Pegasus News justifiable asked if this was one taco joint too many and/or too late in taco-joint-stuffed DFW. It does provide an alternative for Roanoke, where it's not that close to other taco joints. And it boasts eight flavored margaritas as well as sipping tequilas (which were also a house specialty at Cowboy Chow). Our weekday lunchtime visit couldn't tell us much about how popular the place would be; we'll have to come back at night to see if it gets the kinds of lines that nearby Babe's and Twisted Root get.