Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gringo Taco #1: The Local Taco

All photos ©2014 Mary Brace all rights reserved.
(In case you're wondering, the four month blackout is because my new day job — driving sedans for Metro Livery and doing Uber runs — comes with insane hours and there hasn't been proper time to sit down at the computer and bang stuff out.  But I have been out on new dining adventures and keeping the blog in mind; here's my first attempt at picking the pace back up:)

One of Nashville's many blessings is its immigrant community. Mexicans, Africans, Middle & Far Easterners, Slavs ... all contribute to our diverse offerings. Due to the state of class politics, however, many of the best ethnic restaurants in Nashville are contained to strips overly-polluted with billboards, used car lots, high-interest loan shacks and XXX shops that ward off many of our more image-conscious residents. As a result, there are a handful of what I call "gringo taco" restaurants around town, in the more fashionable areas where clientele and management/ownership are pretty strictly European/Caucasian types, fusing ethnic foods with Nashville sensibilities (ie, top shelf Margaritas & BBQ).

Some of them are worth going to, simply because they happen to be near where you live or work or play and you want cheese dip and a Margarita without having to drive far at all; some are worth a 10-20 minute "destination" trip because there's something they do very well and you're jonesing. The purpose of this series is to let readers know what the various Gringo Taco joints do well — or not.

Up first is The Local Taco, my personal favorite of the bunch. The Murphy Road location has a very casual "neighborhood" feel and I'd be comfortable here whether I was in sandals and cut-offs or business attire. Upon its initial opening the decor was a rustic white and blue theme, but the original location has since been repainted to follow the earth tones of its out-of-town offshoots (and perhaps to avoid confusion with an older chain that recently opened in Nashville, with those same colors).

What TLT does very well is their namesake: tacos, often made with locally sourced ingredients. I've had most of the tacos on their menu with the exceptions of fish and mushrooms, and just about all of them are abundant with memorable flavor. The biggest complaints you'll hear about TLT is they aren't packed enough with fillings. For lunch servings, particularly the basket deals (two tacos and one side for $7.50), I'd have to go along with that assessment although I would also reiterate: the small portions of meat are countered by plentiful flavor. Dinner portions seem to contain slightly more meat in the filling.

The pic at left comes from a lunch basket filled with delicious chorizo and Buffalo chicken tacos. The latter is one I'd heavily recommend. The blue cheese, cayenne sauced-chicken, and celery all play against each other with terrific results.

Other faves include Tequila Lime Chicken tacos; tangy and tender, with salsa verde and marinade juices dripping all over. 

The Local BBQ taco starts out with a tangy bite, then heat from chipotle sauce sets in over the smoked pork. You should also try the Smoked Brisket Taco.

The enchiladas don't look like much but again, flavor wins.

TLT is one of the restaurants that started an unwelcome trend: chips and salsa aren't a given, here. You order and pay for your choice: roja, verde, smoked black bean & corn, or pico de gallo. There's also a thick queso w/minced peppers you can lay into. Of the the five, the roja and the queso are most worth having but overall the salsas aren't something to write home about.

The other menu item that is, is their margaritas. House margs are made with Sauza gold and go down easy and tasty. On Mondays you get a dollar off, all day. Another plus is you get several dining options: indoor tables or bar, covered patio tables or bar, and uncovered patio. Pick your favorite atmosphere.

Nashville has two locations and another coming. Murphy Road in Sylvan Park, Pewitt Drive in Brentwood, and rumor has it an East Nashville shop is in the works, on Fatherland St. TLT serves "fast-casual" style: order in front of the house and get your drink, and they'll give you a numbered placard to put on your table. When the food's ready, the server will bring it out to you.

The Local Taco on Urbanspoon

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