Upon ordering a margarita at the Bluebonnet Circle location of R Taco the other night, my 46 1/2 -year-old husband got a stamp on his hand, as if to verify to the world he was no longer under 21.
His salt-and-pepper hair and harried expression — we were with our kids, who have grown increasingly more challenging to corral in tight public spaces — clearly did not give the college-age fellow at the counter any insight into Jeff’s age.
Me, I sometimes feel like I can pass for 12, but when I ordered a mango margarita, the guy hardly blinked. I smiled at the incongruity as I made my way, stampless, to a table at the new restaurant, one of a string of franchised efforts around Tarrant County (locations have opened in Hurst and Mansfield, and a second Fort Worth location is due to open this month in Ridglea).
Strikingly similar in layout to its predecessor, Pegaso Mexican Diner, the month-old Bluebonnet Circle space is chrome and concrete, with blond-wood and industrial accents and a pleasant covered patio, all to connote: We’re hip and we’re “fast-casual.”
When our food was ready, the mixed signals and generalized weirdness continued. The menu features a baker’s dozen of street tacos, eight available-all-day breakfast tacos and a few chip-centric sides. The offerings can be more enjoyable when one comes here during “Loco Hour,” aka happy hour (3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday), when drinks and sides are half-off.
We took advantage of the deal, ordering the Tres Grande ($7; $3.50 during happy hour), a trio of guacamole, queso and salsa served alongside starchy chips that, if they could have worn a sandwich sign, would have said: “Help me, I got stranded in the fryer.” Alternately crispy and grease-laden, they idiosyncratically served as conduits to the watery, lemony guac, almost whipped but studded with tomatoes. It tasted like the pre-made stuff you can buy in the store, so I focused on the queso, perfectly hot temperature-wise, and mildly piquant.
Oozing over the chips and into the marginal cup of salsa, the cheese struck as the stuff of hedonistic post-concert late nights or hangover cures, neither of which I currently frequently experience.
We weren’t impressed with the fried fish ($2.50) or the grilled shrimp ($2.50) tacos, both of which gave “street taco” a new definition; they were limited in both scope and taste. The Bay shrimp were advertised as being grilled, but these looked more sauteed, tossed atop cilantro, red cabbage and baja sauce. The fish was fried and served over the red cabbage and cilantro, but bathed in a chipotle crema that had a smoky, pleasant flavor.
The taco bowl ($6.25) was a bust. A sign at the counter esoterically said the bowls, served with your choice of chicken, seafood, beef, pork or vegetable were “here … for a little while.” I’d happily bid them adieu — my veggie “rajas” bowl had grilled poblanos, mushrooms, onions and red peppers on a bed of partially cooked rice. More than a few grains were inedible.
When I asked for a re-do, the kitchen made a vastly improved bowl — the brown rice was fully cooked and the portions were twofold that of the original.
If you had to drown your culinary sorrows somewhere, the margaritas would be a good place. My mango margarita ($6; $3 at happy hour), syrupy and slushy, featured a sly sweetness and crazy-strong amount of alcohol. In addition to top-shelf blanco tequila, R Taco uses premium triple sec (posted signs say that margaritas are made with “cheap tequila and fresh lime juice” but most of them use the good stuff). There was also agave nectar and the bottom of the cup was lined with a few tablespoons’ worth of mango puree.
I handed it over to the other of-age drinker at the table but it was too much even for him, having finished his own margarita, called “Good Stuff” ($5; $2.50 at happy hour).
With R Taco’s prime access to TCU, I’d be hard-pressed to tell a student there not to hit up R Taco for cheap chips and queso and one of those mango margaritas late at night — even if Thursday through Saturday are the only days it’s open until midnight..
But I’d also tell that youngster to pace him/herself because the queso is hot, the chips not, and the margaritas are strong. I can only hope they are old enough to partake.
3516 Bluebonnet Circle
Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 6 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday