Mike Karns has it made. In one corner—in one building, actually—across from the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science and a Frisbee’s throw from Klyde Warren Park, The head of Firebird Restaurant Group has three restaurants for three demographics. Anchoring the property is the de facto flagship outpost of the El Fenix chain. Next door, the second Meso Maya—the first is on Preston—offers chef Nico Sanchez’s gourmet Mexican fare for a chic set. Behind that, walk-up Taquería La Ventana serves classic tacos in tortillas made from nixtamal, for those who might only have enough time for a nosh at one of its outdoor tables. And for that, it’s perfect. Aside from food trucks, you’d be hard pressed to find such convenient and adequate grub at the border of Uptown and Downtown. Even if La Ventana’s menu contains offensive language (more on that later).
La Ventana melds highfalutin and populist. Brick and corrugated metal share real estate with paintings of Calaveras and a mural of a sexy señorita adorns the building’s rear wall. Strings of colored lights and papel picado add more visual appeal. But what’s most striking about La Ventana is it’s just good enough. That might have something to do with its pedigree. One lunchtime companion put it bluntly. “It’s OK. It’s corporate.”
La Ventana’s filling options are the same found in almost all other local taquerías. And the chicken, here suffers the same way most chicken tacos do: It’s dry. During three visits, the bistec, while flavorful, was also dry. The beef is pulverized to the point that before the customer is aware of its defects, he or she has ingested the bistec.
The suadero and carnitas had a nice crunch, and when shot with salsa verde each shined. However, not brightly enough to distinguish them from the suadero and carnitas of other restaurants. La Ventana’s pastor was dripping wet during one visit. It was fine during a subsequent lunches. Best of the lot, though, was the lengua, subtle, grass, nutty. Lengua, plain and simple.
It’s not that La Ventana’s food is bad. Not at all (except for the chicken). The food’s just not great. With more taquerías offering handmade tortillas or tortillas made from nixtamal as well as more adventurous cuts of meat, The food is merely reliable. It’s kind of place I’d return to when visiting the deck park or the science museum. And if I worked in the area, I might make the new taquería part of my lunch rotation—if it weren’t for the deliberately mangled English on the whiteboard menu.
It’s offensive, embarrassing and racist. As such, I cannot, in good conscience, patronize El Fenix, Meso Maya or La Ventana.
It seems I need to clarify my position. I find it offensive that a white-owned business is playing up stereotypes for the sake of a buck so blatantly. If it were a white-owned Chinese restaurant or soul food joint playing up stereotypes, it wouldn’t be acceptable. So why is it in this case? And the menu has been changed.
As an astute reader pointed out, in my D Magazine article about my favorite taquerías, I described the cochinitia pibil at Café Maya has pre-Hispanic. While the spices and preparation of the iconic Yucatan dish are pre-Hispanic, pork is not. In fact, cochinita means pork. Much the same way that while pozole is pre-Hispanic, the Meso Maya’s pozole rojo is not. Why would I question a restaurant’s credibility if I’m equally guilty? My honest answer is I forgot what I wrote last summer about Café Maya’s cochinita pibil. For that I must apologize. Since then, I’ve learned so much more about Mexican food preparations, including pork. Because of the knowledge gained, I should’ve consulted my previous work. I did not. That was careless, and I regret it. This post has been revised to reflect that.Taquería La Ventana 1611 McKinney Ave. 214-484-6555
10 responses to “Taquería La Ventana”
Do you think that every mexican taqueria, tex mex chain, mexican upscale restaurant in dallas is owned by Mexicans?
velvet taco = white owned
M crowd= white owned
ojos locos= white owned
wild salsa= asian owned
boca chica tapas y tequila= white owned
we should be glad that all these white people are playing stereotypes ad giving our people jobs, opportunities, generating $$$$ for this city to be number 2-3 best economy in the USA
I am sure Mr Karns has the best purpose for the 3 demographic restaurant corner in Dallas. I hope you make a living out of trying to ruin peoples business in your own city. GBY
Wow, so what you’re saying is that perpetuating racial stereotypes, especially racial stereotypes that make minorities seem uneducated, is perfectly fine when trying to make a buck? I certainly don’t think that José was trying to get any “white-owned” business black-balled; he was trying to point out that you don’t need to be disrespectful to an entire race of people to sell their food. And shame on you for making it seem otherwise.
Clearly you are a passionate person, however you neglected the core issue at hand: no matter what, it’s never okay to advocate demeaning social stereotypes. Specially when your alienating the very culture from which you profit. Its my shared opinion that if Mr Karns felt his position was a truly righteous one, he would have stood by his asinine menu sign.
Jose even when as far as to say he would patronize them if it weren’t for the sign; which you fail to point out but I won’t….and I quote, “IT’S KIND OF PLACE I’D RETURN TO WHEN VISITING THE DECK PARK OR THE SCIENCE MUSEUM. AND IF I WORKED IN THE AREA, I MIGHT MAKE THE NEW TAQUERÍA PART OF MY LUNCH ROTATION—IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE DELIBERATELY MANGLED ENGLISH ON THE WHITEBOARD MENU.”!!!
By the way GBY, this is coming from a first generation Mexican married to a white woman who love their mixed child…just in case you felt I was slightly culturally skewed!!!
Also, I don’t think there was any need to clarify your position, José. It was clear to anyone with a conscience what you were saying. It’s unfortunate that someone would imply otherwise.
Wow, that is too bad. That word “Hamon” jumps right out at me. Who would deliberately misspell that, but then refer to breakfast tacos as tacos mañaneros with the correct tilde placement, if not trying to mock people on purpose? None that I’m aware of. If they were unsure if their non-Spanish speaking clientele would understand some of the words, they should have just written the whole thing in English. Shame on you La Ventana.
“we should be glad that all these white people are playing stereotypes ad giving our people jobs, opportunities, generating $$$$ for this city to be number 2-3 best economy in the USA”
That doesn’t make any sense… for many reasons. Who exactly is “we” here? And here’s another question: Do you think that every Mexican wants/needs “white people” to give “our people” jobs and opportunities?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what race owns what kind of business. Race doesn’t/shouldn’t matter. What does matter is utilizing destructive and needless stereotypes for the apparent sake of appearing “authentic,” (what ever that means) regardless of the race of the perpetrator. It’s not cute, it’s disrespectful and ignorant, and there’s no place for it in this alleged world-class city.
Well put Alex!
I think the term “non Hispanic” owned would be more appropriate than “white owned”.
To RSE’s point:
I’m a pretty opened minded individual. If the owner is Caucasian, that doesn’t matter to me because I don’t think that food, art, music and many other contributions to our city should have barriers. They bring us closer together as a community. I do however think that the white board misspelling “breakfast” would offend Hispanics, especially acculturated ones. It’s almost implying that that’s how we would spell the word because we are illiterate. Maybe the owner just has a weird or peculiar sense of humor but when you’re in the food industry you’re in the public eye and people will criticize any move you make. If he’s blithely making jokes hopefully he’s just as calloused to receive any negative criticism that may come.
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