I recently moved from a major taco city. Houston has it all, from San Antonio puffy tacos to great gas station street tacos for $1. But I’m quickly learning that NoVA’s taco game is strengthening.
One of the more recent additions to the taco landscape is Taco Rock, which opened last November on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington. It fills a hole in my taco dance card for creative, international versions. Taco Rock definitely checks that box, and a couple of others.
The concept, from chef Mike Cordero, the mind behind nearby Don Tito and Bronson Bierhall, is simple. A large menu of classics, vegetarian options and those aforementioned originals, all served in a fast-casual environment, where music videos are projected on a large wall and the bathrooms have skull-emblazoned wallpaper.
That’s Taco Rock in a nutshell, but it overlooks the element I found most winning: the homemade blue corn tortillas. Almost black with deep-purple masa, they give every taco a rock-and-roll vibe and a blank canvas that’s as visually appealing as it is supple.
With 24 tacos on the menu, not including specials, it’s not easy to make a selection. Fortunately for me, the day I visited, they were running a deal that included one free classic if I ordered three specialty tacos. Rock on.
Of the four tacos I tried, the best were the least traditional. The ahi tuna taco featured less sushi-grade fish than I’d hoped for, but at $4.25, I wasn’t too surprised. Still, I was delighted by the contrast of flavors and textures. Sweet seaweed salad slipped against my teeth, just as they crunched into crispy ramen and my lips felt the light burn of cucumber wasabi sauce and spicy furikake.
It was quite a contrast to the Colonel Sanders, which centers on a spicy, ultra-crisp chunk of chicken battered more like fish and chips than the famous 11-herbs-and-spices dredge. I wasn’t complaining. Pickles and coleslaw added some elan, along with creamy Mississippi-style Comeback Sauce.
I wasn’t a fan of the mysteriously chemical taste of the jerk-chicken-focused We Jammin’. My free barbarcoa cordero taco tasted spot-on with chimichurri salsa atop flavorful pulled lamb. Unfortunately, the meat was a tad dry. But I had a good enough success rate that I’m looking forward to tasting my way through the menu next time I’m hungry in Arlington. The Cheesy Melt, falafel and lomo saltado are calling my name. // 1501 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
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