For the past six decades, the Streamline Moderne building on University Drive — one of the area’s few surviving examples of this type of mid-century architecture — has been home to several restaurants, beginning with Topsy’s Cafe in the late 1940s. J&J’s Oyster Bar, Rush Street Diner and, finally, Quizno’s are among the restaurants to have occupied this tiny metal diner.
With the West 7th expansion slowly creeping to the west, the timing seems ideal for someone else to take another shot at it.
Earlier this summer, siblings Milo and Rosalia Ramirez did just that, opening their first standalone Salsa Limón restaurant in this historical building, expanding a business that already includes three trucks and a mall space at La Gran Plaza. Over the years, the two have proved their aptitude for being in the right place at the right time, launching their food trucks before it became trendy, and focusing those trucks on another trend-to-be: tacos. And they recently rolled out Gorgonzilla, a truck that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches, another food truck trend.
As with the Salsa Limón trucks, Salsa Limón “Museo” — so nicknamed because of its location, right across the street from the museum district — features a menu that is gringo-friendly but also offers more authentic Mexican food fare. You’ll find tacos, burritos, tortas and quesadillas stuffed, layered and topped with beef, chicken and seafood, as well as tongue and intestines; the restaurant also serves breakfast daily starting at 8 a.m.
The specialty remains street tacos ($2.50), small and cheap but packed with ingredients. Food truck fave El Capitán — topped with marinated skirt steak — lives on here, but we also enjoyed the shrimp taco, piled high with tiny grilled shrimp, still sizzling underneath a generous portion of cool, crisp cabbage slaw, chopped onions and fresh cilantro, which comes on all of the tacos.
Red snapper taco is another must. The fish was moist and buttery, and outlined in charred edges. Tripe was pan-fried, resulting in a crisp skin that gave way to silky textured offal. It had a likable taste of bacon fat. Our favorite was the lengua, or cow’s tongue. If it’s not cooked properly, it can be tough and chewy, and you’ll be instantly reminded of what you’re eating. But this was so tender, it nearly melted in your mouth; it tasted like good, well-rendered brisket fat.
Tortillas aren’t made in-house; they’re supplied by a local maker. Served warm, right off the griddle, they were sturdy enough to carry a lot of weight but soft to the bite. They also didn’t fall apart easily. Milo says plans are in the works to start making their own tortillas.
Elsewhere on the menu, we tried the molca bowl ($6.50), a layered dip consisting of smooth refried beans, mild Mexican rice, onions and cilantro, topped with streaks of a white, zesty mayo sauce and, if you want, a choice of meat. Barbacoa is a good option: the steamed cheek meat was incredibly tender and had a rich, beefy flavor. Crispy corn tortilla chips came on the side for dipping.
The star attractions here, though, are the four housemade salsas, ranging from mild to scorching. A dark green tomatillo sauce was the least malevolent, with an almost sweet flavor. Bright green jalapeño salsa was zesty with a slight bite. Pequin was a dark red chile salsa, wielding an unsuspecting heat that sneaks up on you after you think you’re in the clear. Finally, the orange habanero and garlic sauce is for those with tongues of steel.
Architectural purists and Fort Worth historians should appreciate that the Ramirez family did very little to change the interior, aside from displaying a few pieces of art. A patio decorated with antique and custom-made pine benches has been added, but inside seating is still snug, with enough room for about 20 people — just like the old days.