Not another one, I thought when I learned of Taco Republic, the Richardson specialty taqueria from Ron Guest, co-founder of San Miguel Café. Velvet Taco is such a miscarriage. Torchy’s Tacos is hit or miss. Taco Ocho is appealing. However, none comes close to the excellence of Good 2 Go Taco or Austin’s Tacodeli? Could another fancy taco venture change anything? Early estimates indicate yes.
Opened for a week when a friend and I scurried north on Interstate 75, Taco Republic occupies a former La Paloma Taquería, not far the other fancy taco joint, Taco Ocho. But where the latter has a pan-Latino sensibility regarding tacos, Taco Republic brings it back to North of the Border favorites, with breakfast options forthcoming.
A tight list of eight tacos is a daunting thing. It’s easy to consider ordering the whole menu and pray you don’t pass out headfirst into the Thai Chihuahua, a two-tongued highlight with hoisin-marinated pork shredded nestled under a modest garnish of slaw that gave the meat an acidic punch against the sweet pig. But it would be a joyous food coma.
It was simple, not overdone and downright out of nowhere. I expected the urge to pour a container of table salt down my throat to counteract the cloying filling something with the makeup of the Thai Chihuahua. Instead, what I got was a pleasant surprise.
On the other hand, the Smokehouse, another pork job, was an expected winner. Its combination of brisket, a chipotle BBQ sauce and a generous pile of fried onions did not fail.
The Philly with chopped ribeye, onions and green peppers under runny queso wasn’t as stellar, but it pleased the hell out of my Tex-Mex-breathing dining companion.
The Texican, skewing traditional with mesquite-grilled beef and a garnish of pico de gallo, was a letdown. Greasy and bland, save for the slimy green pepper, the beef offered little suggesting proximity to smoking mesquite. The flour tortilla in which the filling rested was a cold mass unable to soak up of the abundant run-off.
The steak frites and the bella frites, variations on a theme, had similar textures—mushrooms are cool like that—and both were nestled beneath decent shoestring fries, even if the beef (ribeye) version edged out the fungus. The blue cheese crema drizzled on each taco added zip without muddling the main ingredient. Unfortunately, there was no room left in our guts for the Farm to Market, a vegetarian selection with fried zucchini and roasted corn gussied up with red pepper-cilantro cream sauce.
Other nods to local foodways were left for another visit. And there will be another visit. It’s then I’ll give the Game Day Buffalo Chicken a whirl. I’ll be disappointed if it’s not an improvement on Velvet Taco’s horrific interpretation of wings.
There’s the rub.
On the outset, Taco Republic appears another specialty joint with quirky offerings. Similarities abound, but logistics matter. The Taco Republic tacos aren’t overstuffed. They’re quiet in construction—not taste—and are done with an eye on tradition. The sturdy, pliant yellow corn tortillas are made from scratch—that is, from nixtamal (corn soaked in lime)—by an outside contractor Guest wants to keep anonymous. (No just-add-water Maseca for Taco Republic.) And they’re great, deceptively strong and with a slight chew. This alone distinguishes Taco Republic as gem of a taqueria. That it follows through with outstanding finished products just seals the deal.
760 S. Central Expwy., Richardson