Review: Mr. Taco
A large part of my life is spent looking for unique food experiences. As foodies this can lead us to the rare, expensive, difficult and fussy. But deep down we know there is a holy grail. We’re all looking for that hole-in-the-wall strip mall dive that provides nothing short of a religious experience. Psst… here it is.
You heard me correctly — Mr. Taco.
The Man and I were searching for somewhere we could take an obnoxious 4-year-old where we didn’t have to scream our order into a plastic clown’s mouth. Tucked into a strip mall deep in the warrens of cubicle farms in the Salisbury/Southside/St. Luke’s area, Mr. Taco is easy to miss. Once inside, there is a small grocery and a walk-up ordering counter. To the right you’ll find the salsa bar. (!) Nine different kinds of handmade salsa are on offer – made fresh each day.
The menu includes tortas (sandwiches), fajitas, tacos, burritos, tostadas, nachos, quesadillas, salads, sides and desserts. The Man chose a variety of tacos ($1.25-2.75 each or $5.50-6.25 for 3) and I chose a torta ($3.75 – 6.75). We had a seat and of course, I checked out the facilities. Honestly, I think this was the cleanest strip mall restaurant bathroom in Jacksonville.
Our food came in a reasonable amount of time for the lunch rush (less than 10 minutes). While we waited, we had a bowl of freshly fried tortilla chips with three or four of the different salsas. This isn’t fancy food, just good honest ingredients hand-made into a variety of different heat levels and types of salsa.
When our food came I was shocked at the size of my torta. For $5.25 I had ordered the Torta Carnita (shredded pork). I had taken it as offered on the menu with refried beans, sour cream, avocado, lettuce and tomato. On the overhead menu at ordering jalapenos were listed, but did not come on the sandwich. So, if you prefer them don’t assume they will appear without prompting.
Torta Carnita $5.25
This is one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in Jacksonville. The shredded pork was tender and beautifully seasoned. There were a lot of chunks of juicy pork rather than the dried out piggy dust normally passed off as shredded pork. The avocado and sour cream combined to make the filling scrumptious creamy and satisfying. The bread contrasted it with a toasted buttery snap on the outside. The toasting was done with such perfection that there wasn’t a bit of the bun that wasn’t crispy and buttery but there also wasn’t a single speck of burnt bread. I will be back for this sandwich over and over again. The other fillings available include bean ($3.75), asada, pastor, chorizo, chicken (all $5.75), fajita steak or chicken with grilled onions and peppers ($5.75), fish and shrimp (both $6.75).
The Man and The Little Man shared a total of six tacos of various incarnations.
(from back to front) yellow corn chorizo, yellow corn carnitas, flour pastor, flour asada
All tacos were dressed with standard lettuce, tomato and cheese. The striking thing about these tacos was the freshness of the shells and fillings. I had a bite of each and all were really good, but the chorizo is the real standout here.
The chorizo was well within the comfort zone of most people’s spice preference but the flavor was just explosive. Many chorizos of lower quality tend to make up for greasiness and low flavor with heat, but this was a wonderfully balanced chorizo in a shatteringly crisp shell.
I think on my next visit I’ll be merging the two by ordering the torta with chorizo filling!
Mr. Taco is obviously a family business with a very high level of quality and pride. The attention to detail is above and beyond. It is the gem glinting in the dustbin of this part of town. I give it my highest recommendation.
Mr. Taco is located at 6426 Bowden Road. Give them a call for details or take out at 636-9994.
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all images copyright © 2011 by jodi a. kasten • all rights reserved