A new combatant, and a formidable one at that, has entered the simmering taco wars of Tarrant County.
This one is Digg's Taco Shop, a 2,900-square-foot, sleekly understated eatery in the new College Park District on the east side of the UT Arlington campus. And Digg's is hitting mostly bull's-eyes with a highly defined menu of tacos, burritos and tortas.
Digg's, which opened two months ago, is one of the first restaurants in the gradual unveiling of the spiffy mixed-use (residences and retail) College Park complex. It is the second Metroplex location for Digg's, which debuted two years ago across from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
It's all a source of unalloyed pleasure to the restaurant company's CEO, Joey Milan, whose Fort Worth hospitality-entertainment résumé includes stints with Billy Bob's Texas, the Stockyards Hotel and Lucile's Stateside Bistro.
Though Digg's is most resolutely a fast-casual eatery, there is more than casual thought behind its design: a minimalist industrial-chic interior, with raw pine tables, an exposed ceiling and a front door in French-dressing orange. Throw in a full bar, the abundance of fresh ingredients used in its relatively limited menu items, and the lack of tacky wall-to-wall sports memorabilia, and Digg's clearly is distancing itself from its taqueria-sports bar competitors.
The eager-to-please student-age staff who took my order, along with the stunning speed of its delivery (I clocked it at 6 minutes and 48 seconds), started me off in a very promising direction.
From my perch on one of the back banquettes, I was within earshot of the gregarious, highly knowledgeable banter from barman Lennon Brown, as he sang the praises of the Digg's signature hurricane, even as I took in what rates as truly inspired restaurant wall art: a totally random collection of concert set lists, from the 1962 Beatles to a 2007 concert by John Mayer.
It didn't take long to choose from 10 main menu items, including tacos, burritos (roll-ups or bowls), tortas, nachos and quesadillas -- almost every one available with a choice of proteins, from chicken to roasted pork carnitas.
Of course, owing to the name of the joint, I was most curious about the signature tacos. The buffalo chicken taco ($3.50) was a harmonious congregation of crispy fried chicken pieces, a fresh salad of red cabbage, julienned carrots and celery, and ever-present cilantro fronds. Unfortunately, it was undercut by a persistently shy "buffalo" sauce.
Thankfully, there was no timidity when it came to the habanero jumbo Gulf shrimp taco ($3.50), sparked by the sweet heat of a balanced habanero-papaya sauce. Each spicy bite of the shrimp was slightly enhanced by the cool crunch of jicama strips.
Tender shredded beef lent surprising depth of flavor to what could have been yet another prosaic nacho platter ($6.75). But this one, served on two tortilla disks the size of CDs -- as opposed to ho-hum chips -- also featured a nicely balanced portion of jalapeño slices, black beans, purple cabbage, shredded Monterey Jack, Roma tomatoes and guacamole, none of which were suffocating under your typical melted-cheese lava flow.
And then came the meal's most robust star: a roasted pork carnitas-propelled burrito bowl. This retails for $7.25, but it's got enough fragments of succulent pork, cilantro rice, black beans, guacamole, Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onion to feed a small dorm.
Digg's performs the culinary miracle whereby despite the substantial nature of its dishes, somehow you still have room to enjoy some crispy jelly doughnut holes ($3). They come spilling out of an overturned Chinese takeout container, each dusted in sugar and ready to dip in a tart strawberry jam.
The Digg's motto exhorts customers to "respect the taco." That kind of ad copy rings hollow if the taco doesn't deliver on the billing. As it turns out, Digg's doesn't need any brash sloganeering. From the taco to the doughnut hole and from the takeout counter's amicable service to the banter-filled bar, Digg's earns every bit of the respect it so boldly demands.