St. Matthews got itself a new taqueria, and the early returns look good.
The little outpost building in the same lot as Sullivan’s Tap House (formerly Bluegrass Brewing Co.) was for years a seafood shack and most recently a taqueria called The ’Ville, an establishment that didn’t last long. The new kid in town, Taco Choza, looks to make things stick a while longer.
The exterior of the gray building is virtually unchanged, but the interior is quite a bit different than in the days of the maddeningly inconsistent The ’Ville, which had good food but could never be counted upon to be open during posted hours. (I even stopped in once for lunch, tried to enter and could see employees inside watching me. What gives?)
Taco Choza (choza means “shack” in Spanish) now has a remodeled order station that extends the back half of the place, almost a brick-fronted bar.
The color scheme is orange with brown accents, and the décor is not overtly Mexican-themed. With a big fork and spoon on one wall and a large sign that says “Welcome,” it feels more like a mom-and-pop café.
You place your order from a menu above the point-of-sale station, and the options aren’t necessarily plentiful, at least at this point — 11 signature tacos, three burritos, three quesadillas, a salad and a few sides and desserts, and that’s about it, other than the nachos posted on a nearby chalkboard.
Burritos are more or less standard with the customer choosing the meat. Horchata and other Mexican drinks join American soft drinks in a cooler, and the friendly gentleman who took my order told me margaritas and beer were a couple of days away as of this writing.
I ordered three tacos, and he directed me to four house-made salsas at a small serve-yourself bar: mild roja, tomatillo, jalapeno verde and “extra hot habanero.” I got a small cup of the latter two and made my way to a table. The jalapeno sauce was fresh-tasting with plenty of mildly spicy and earthy jalapeno flavor, while the habanero salsa lived up to its billing with great, fresh pepper flavor and a nice, lingering kick.
My tacos came out within a few minutes in a paper-lined basket, garnished with three big lime wedges (no skimping there) and several radish slices. Right off the bat, I knew I had plenty to eat, as the tacos were stuffed with meat in doubled-up corn tortillas.
I had ordered a basic street taco made with steak, a barbacoa taco and a mahi taco and started with the street taco, which was full of chunks of tender steak and topped with chopped onions and plenty of cilantro. I drizzled it with lime and then added a bit of habanero salsa and had myself a hearty start to lunch, with bits of perfectly seared steak tumbling into the basket with each bite.
The barbacoa was finely shredded beef in an orange-red barbecue sauce that already was beginning to soak through the tortillas when I got to it. The meat wasn’t as tender as I’d expected, but the flavor was on point (no salsa necessary, really), accented by more lime, cilantro and onions. Again, a hearty portion.
When I ordered the mahi taco, the friendly server said, “I love that one.” When I took the first bite, I quickly understood why. The generous slab of seasoned and grilled mahi mahi, topped with fresh pico de gallo and a mild aioli, was the highlight of my lunch, for sure. Clean, fresh and satisfying from the first bite to the last, although it was a bit on the messy side. No complaints here, though.
Tacos check in at $3.99 each, which is on the high end, but for the amount of food, it’s reasonable. Burritos and quesadillas are $8.99 and $9.99, and upon catching a glance at someone else’s burrito, I suspect it’s worth it. That thing was enormous; not sure I could have gotten through a whole one at lunchtime without requiring a recovery siesta.
All in all, I’m giving it a thumbs up as an addition to the growing options for authentic Mexican fare here in town, particularly closer to the city’s center.
Taco Choza, located at 3922 Westport Road, is open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.