Published on May 2, 2013, by in Eating in Raleigh.

I have not been as excited to eat at a place in months! First of all, this is a place that I have heard recommended MANY times, and, last weekend, I finally read enough good reviews to decide to go, nay to go out of my way to go.

Walking in, I was pumped. Waiting in line to order food, I can only compare it to waiting for a great band to take the stage. This restaurant chain is so acclaimed that they don’t bother to highlight all of their major accomplishments because there are so many: Atlanta Magazine, Bon Appétit, Garden and Gun, the awards just keep pouring in; there isn’t enough room on their menu or my blog to document them, but I was amazed that they did not mention that the restaurant’s chef was a semi-finalist for a James Beard award!

By the time I reached the end of this epic history of a small restaurant hitting the big times, only American laws and my girlfriend’s insistence that I be patient were holding me back from elbowing my way to the front of the line and head banging while I ordered a dozen fish tacos (that and the fact that only one couple was in front of us).

Why they want you to stand in line and think about what you are going to order is a little silly, because their menu’s entrees are two fold. They have Tacos and they have Enchiladas. If you order the Enchiladas, they have three enchilada sauces and they also have three meats you combine into a scrumptious meal. Whereas they have 7 structured or pre-built tacos (not sure who the redheaded stepchild is in this group, but it may be you, refried beans!). I actually don’t mind a narrow menu, way to stick it in the eye of that Cheesecake Factory whose menu needs a Spark Notes companion. When I see a narrow menu, I see a chef with a specialty, and when I see a Mexican restaurant that doesn’t have a burrito, I see a noble rebel mooning the tex-mex army across the way.

When it comes to me and the choice of tacos or enchilada, there was not much of an option here, because I’ve never met an Enchilada that I love, but I’ve often thought of settling down and marrying the right taco if it ever came along. You see, I’ve always been a one taco kind of guy, and my relationship with Chipotle is just a fling, I swear.

My girlfriend and I could not agree on which of the six tacos being offered to order, so we pushed our chips all in and ordered one of each. Waiting for the food, I noticed one of the worst omens that I could imagine from a restaurant of celebrity: the atmosphere here is really boring. The way it is laid out mostly reminds me a Chipotle. There is an open, but very bare seating area, customers stand in line to order food, there are no decorations, and the lighting is largely natural. I guess this is a way to not overload the senses, but this place needs to have fun, or at least have pictures of people having fun (I mean, the bar might be the only interesting thing to look at, and it is fun to look at). The one difference between Taqueria and Chipotle is that at Taqueria, you get your ice from a bucket. How’s that for going green…? Or something. Luckily the food arrived before I could dwell upon the bucket for much longer.

First up was a lime chicken taco. This was an incredible start to this meal. This taco is a seasonal item, so get it while you can. The acid in the lime was a great way to awaken my pallet and the taco was gone in an instant. This taco easily gets 3.5/5 stars; it’s missing those later stars because it’s not that original or impressive, and I could not eat more than one of these, it would be too much lime. It’s basically a chicken ceviche taco. This was the taco I was LEAST looking forward to, and I really enjoyed it.

Next came the Memphis. A pork taco with coleslaw and BBQ sauce. This taco had the best balance of meat to filler, in my opinion, but the overall flavor did not work for me. I was not a fan of the coleslaw, which provided nothing more than a crunch in the the distractingly sweet bar-b-que sauce that was used. I eagerly passed this taco off to my girlfriend; it was one of my least favorite tacos, but I think it was my girlfriend’s favorite. I give it a 1/5 and she gives it a 4/5.

One thing that I will compliment this place on is that they give you meat with your taco, and in the case of the Brisket taco, I could have done with less bland pork and more seasoning or pico de gallo, whichever comes first. This gets an easy 1/5 stars from both my girlfriend and I. My girlfriend didn’t want another bite of this taco after her first, and neither did I, but after she did me a solid and finished the Memphis, I knew my time had come.

Fried Chicken Taco and Fish Taco – One had a spicy mayo and the other had a spicy tarter sauce. One had deep-fried chicken, one had deep-fried fish, and both meats were crispy and would probably be good by themselves. That being said, these tacos could have easily found a home on a fast food menu in terms of taste. Not much going on here, and I can say that I ate them, but I can’t say that I want to go back there, not worth the calories: 2/5 stars.

I was looking forward to the Carnita and the Fish tacos the most, but I saved the Carnita for last. Looking back on it, I had the same problems here that I did with the brisket only this time, I think I made my girlfriend finish this taco and I opted to eat ice out of the bucket. 1/5…nay 0/5.

Did I go on a bad day? Maybe. Am I an uncultured swine? Hard to say. Is this place better when intoxicated? Probably, no, absolutely. Do I know a good taco when I get one? YES, and the fact that this restaurant is bolstering itself with so many awards truly depresses me. I will never understand three things: women, why Argo got best picture, and why this place has any awards. There is nothing going on here that is worth mentioning or returning to.

I do not like this place. I hope to never return for anything other than to drink and maybe eat cheese dip, which was good. However, I can see the value in this place. It has a nice bar, good people work here, but, for me, the food was a MAJOR let down. I was expecting The Rolling Stones and I got The Animal Band. However, I can’t hate on anyone for liking The Animal Band. I would just encourage fans to try some other places. Like Salsa Fresh, Dos Tacquitos, I would even recommend Chipotle over this place.

Taste = Mid-low
Variety = low
Portions = average
Price = fair
Service = good
Atmosphere = lackluster
Total Value = mid low

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