The new Sundance Square Plaza has already become a downtown draw in its few short months. Now Taco Diner, the Mi Cocina-lite iteration from Dallas’ M Crowd, is hoping to do the same.
It’s a bright-white space, with walls accented by a pastel-hued mural and slick, black and white tiles. It already fits into the artful landscape here, looking quite at home anchoring the southwest side of the plaza.
Billed as a “Mexico City Taqueria,” the menu offers some 20 tacos, a handful of different ones under the headings of chicken, beef, pork, fish, vegetarian and specialties of the house. In addition, you can specify which of five different salsas, like spicy serrano or salsa roja, you’d like to put on your taco. All of this creates some what-to-order hand-wringing — especially if you’ve never been here before, and excruciatingly so if you’re dining with an indecisive orderer. (To protect the innocent, we won’t name any names.)
Add items like chilaquiles, ropa vieja brisket tamales, fajitas and pozole to the mix, and you can see why it’s hard to make a decision.
But it was easy enough to settle on a drink: a Mambo Taxi ($8). The cocktail of choice of the Highland Park Mi Cocina set (show me a celebrity who visits Dallas and doesn’t order one of these), the drink is actually worth the hype. Made with top-notch tequila, it’s a frozen margarita swirled with the restaurant’s in-house sangria. Yes, please.
The queso blanco appetizer ($4 for a cup, $6 for a bowl) was slightly spicy and topped with tomatoes and jalapeños. The cheese was a perfect, melt-y temperature, and the diced veggies offered good texture.
The crispy jumbo shrimp tacos ($10 for four with rice) were two large, butterflied pieces, topped with a green chile slaw, inside soft corn tortillas. The shrimp had a panko-esque batter and were nicely crisp yet not overly fried. The slaw was just OK — nothing much to see here, but there was a nice garnish of avocado slices and lettuce. The Mexican rice was a bit bland.
The tostadas compuestas ($10) come with grilled steak, chicken or pork. I tried the steak, which was sliced atop refried black beans, shredded lettuce, salsa verde and shredded queso fresco. A chalupa-like creation, the dish was quite good, even if the steak was a little too cold for my taste.
Because “Diner” is half of the equation here, the restaurant also turns out a surprisingly good cheeseburger ($8), served atop a well-buttered near-brioche bun, which you can eat at the restaurant’s j-shaped bar/counter. A discreet TV mounted above, as well as attractive woven-basket lighting fixtures, add to the spare contemporary environment.
Throughout the meal, service was gracious. There on an early, rainy weeknight, we didn’t have to fight to get our server’s attention — something tells us that may not be the case on busier nights — so she took care of us, bringing extra plates and indulging in our sliced-avocados-on the side whim (even if we were charged $6 extra because of it).
Neither the tres leches cake ($5) nor the Mexican flan ($4) got our attention — perhaps we ate too much queso? — but next time we might indulge.
It’s hard to have a “miss” of a meal at Taco Diner, the chain’s sixth DFW location but the first in Fort Worth. With proficient cooking, solid service and a crisp, clean atmosphere, Taco Diner has taken a recipe for success and gone to (down)town.