New upmarket taco operations, whether a truck or a brick-and-mortar concern, give me pause. Are the owners only in the business because they like tacos and see them as an easy entry into the food industry? You know, because a taco is anything you want it to be? Such is the case of the now defunct 333’s Gourmet Taco Shop. Charging up to $12 for a sloppy product on Kroger tortillas was never sustainable long-term. Or are they driven by something more? Flatlanders Taco Co., a lonchera wrapped in a mod Dia de los Muertos shell, is an example of the latter.
Inspired by their time living in Colorado and years of traveling and studying in Mexico, Texans Ashley and Tyler Hall returned home to offer tacos influenced by Tyler’s lifelong intimacy with Mexican food in the United States. “For me, I grew up eating tacos and tamales. Mexican food has always been a two or three night a week meal in my family,” he says. “My first homemade authentic meal, menudo, was while working as a dishwasher when I was 13. That was my introduction to a flavor profile that has always got me looking for the best homestyle Mexican cooking wherever I am. When I met my wife 7 years ago, the obsession doubled with her love for it as well. Now it’s almost every meal. Everywhere we travel, we try to find an off-the-beaten-path Mexican grocer, restaurant, stand or truck to get our fix, always taking note of our favorite and unique sauces, salsas and taco combinations.” The result, Tyler says, is an effort to create specialty tacos while staying within the bounds of tradition. And it’s promising.
Tucked inside tortillas from dependable La Mexicana in Duncanville, of the three tacos I order, all priced at $3.25, the beef option was the best. It was warm with a slight chew and pep from lemon zest. Nevertheless, the beef lacked the promised smoky, temple-whacking chipotles. The roasted pork, which had I waited much longer would’ve cooled to stiffness, was absent any hint of Serrano, a chile that ranks higher than jalapeño on the Scoville scale.
Vegetarians who have trouble finding friendly options at traditional outlets like Los Torres Taqueria are in luck with Flatlanders. The day I went, the menu included an avocado taco and another with mushrooms. I went for the former and found a chilled filling of diced avocado,corn kernels and the standard black beans. Avocado that had spent more time outside the refrigerator would have salvaged the taco. The creamy, taqueria-style avocado salsa and few shots of queso fresco were nice finishing touches to the trio.
There are worse problems to have than temperature and spice. With minor tweaks, Flatlanders could shoot past its current potential into tacos worth going out of the way for. And Dallasites will need to do just that when Flatlanders Taco Co. opens its planned Denton restaurant space. Hall says that is when they plan to introduce house-made tortillas. “[T]ortillas made from scratch will come before all of it,” he explains. “We know the importance of made from scratch over mass-produced tortillas and that is out next hurdle. We are fortunate with the tortillas we serve, but nothing beats being able to say we made them ourselves from scratch.” It could make all the difference, and I look forward to sampling them when the time comes. Until then, Flatlanders can be found serving throughout Dallas county and at Denton’s craft beer mecca, Oak St. Drafthouse & Cocktail Parlor.