A friend told me about Taco City’s opening in the Highlands, so I immediately went searching on the internet. And then I saw tacos with crema on them.
I have nothing against crema, but I don’t think it necessarily belongs on everything, and it seems so many “modern” taco joints want to add too many ingredients to every taco they make. I worried Taco City might be one of those places — and then I stopped in for lunch.
I already can’t wait to go back.
First, the small restaurant with the big patio is awash in color, mostly coming from the rainbow of metal chairs and bright blue umbrellas, so it’s eye-catching and inviting before you even try the first bite. Second, the smells in the place as you walk in are incredible. The first aroma that hit me was that of fried fish, so I immediately knew I would be ordering a fish taco.
The menu consists of Mexican standards: plenty of taco choices, burritos, tortas, quesadillas and a few exotic sides like maduros and yuca fries.
And while there’s plenty of crema on the menu, the tacos feel as if they are constructed with a strategy in mind that owes to the flavors involved.
I chose the fried cod taco, along with a taco de carnitas and a taco chilango, while my girlfriend, Cynthia, ordered nachos with grilled chicken. Tacos run $3.75 to $3.99 each, while the nachos were $8.99, so the price points aren’t exactly cheap at Taco City.
We soon learned why.
It’s a fast-casual place, so you order at the counter, take a number and then seat yourself. The dining room features fairly muted colors aside from the chairs, with basic tile floor and black tables, with one wall featuring black-and-white-mounted photographs of, oddly, Paris and other cities.
Housemade salsas are available in a refrigerator that also holds Jarritos sodas and other drinks, and I set to work trying to find one that might work with my tacos. The bottle marked Chipotle is actually an aioli rather than a salsa, creamy and smoky with only light spice.
The Habanero isn’t nearly as spicy as one might think, instead offering a unique flavor that wasn’t as bright as I would expect from the fruity habanero pepper. El Macho featured big pepper flavors and notable heat, but nothing overwhelming. (There were a couple of others available as well, if those don’t sound to your liking.)
Taco City wasn’t busy at the time, so the food didn’t take long to come out, and that’s when we knew we were in for a battle.
Cynthia’s nachos were piled high with chicken, lettuce, black beans (you can also get pinto), cheese, pickled onions and more. It was impressive.
Meanwhile, all three of my tacos, served in fresh-cooked single corn tortillas, were bulging from the shell.
I first tried the carnitas tacos and they were probably as well prepared as any I’ve had anywhere, tender, juicy and flavorful.
The taco was topped with guacamole, cilantro, chopped onions and, interestingly, chopped radishes, which added a flavor element and crispness that enhanced everything around it.
The cod taco featured a thick piece of flaky, white fish in a crispy batter, topped with cilantro, the aforementioned chipotle aioli and what appeared to be a red cabbage slaw. Tasty.
The chilango (a word that generally refers to someone or something that hails from Mexico City) taco was an interesting combination of thin-cut cesina steak and plenty of chorizo, topped with onions and cilantro — the delicious basics. The El Macho salsa worked beautifully with the hearty and flavorful steak and spicy chorizo.
Cynthia got about halfway through her nachos, which she loved, before she had to admit she was too full to continue. I had to chuckle when she remarked that, for her taste at least, there was too much chicken.
“I don’t need to have meat in every bite,” she said, apparently fighting off meat sweats. Carnivores, you know what to do. Those nachos were meaty and delicious, with plenty of avocado sauce and nacho cheese.
We both walked away stuffed and satisfied, and I can only imagine that when the word gets out about Taco City, it’s destined to enjoy a faithful following. That patio certainly will be a fine destination when fall weather finally arrives.
Better yet, a liquor license is pending, so expect cerveza and possibly more coming soon.
Taco City, located at 1283 Bardstown Road, is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. on Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon-9 p.m. on Sunday.