In the 1980s, Wolfgang Puck put salmon, chicken and expensive mushrooms on a pizza. It made him famous, and now he’s a celebrity millionaire. Here in Texas, there are people in the culinary arts doing with tacos what Wolfgang Puck did with pizza. And they’re having a lot of success with the gourmet taco. Tacos are one of the hottest restaurant trends at the moment.
But I’ve tried these trendy tacos, and I have to say, I don’t get it. Much as I could live with New York-style peperoni pizza every time, I think tacos are fine the way they are.
Torchy’s Tacos, which started out in one of the food trailers in South Austin, opened an outpost at Preston and Forest, and I was anxious to try it. After all, if it’s cool in Austin, it must be really cool, right? Well, you know what else is cool in Austin? Frat parties.
Maybe this is dumb. But I’m mad about fancy tacos, and not in the Bette Davis way of being mad about something that is simply divine. I’m mad in the Howard Beale way.
At Torchy’s, I tried the fried avocado taco, and why this seemed appealing, I will never know. It’s an unseasoned avocado deep fried in a bland batter inside a tortilla with refried beans, lettuce, tomato and cheddar/jack cheese. It tasted like a lot of mush. No flavor. So I poured on the poblano sauce, which actually is ranch dressing. Ranch dressing! On a taco! For shame, Torchy.
The pork carnitas taco with queso fresco and a mild, smoky salsa was better, but for that same $3.50, I could have three unfussy tacos at La Paisanita, El Tizoncito, El Si Hay, La Michoacana or just about any Oak Cliff taquería.
My total at Torchy’s, for two tacos and a drink, was nine dollars and twenty cents, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.
Other trendy taco joints — Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and Rusty Taco, for example — are not as expensive. Fuzzy’s has a taco salad I like. Rusty Taco is in a really cool converted gas station on Greenville. And people love Torchy’s the way most American women love Oprah. But from now on, I’m keeping my taco dollars in the ‘hood.