Sunday, May 30, 2010
Nashville Restaurants and Food
The Local Taco
4501 Murphy Road
It’s 10:58 a.m. The Local Taco doesn’t open for another two minutes. There are already 12 people in line. This Sylvan Park restaurant is crazy popular. And while the lines may seem daunting at times, the staff hustles. You can find tacos all over this city: new taquerias spring up on Nolensville Road, Murfreesboro Road and Gallatin Pike monthly. It’s just one of the many reasons it’s taken us so long to get here. So, why do we need The Local Taco? They’re doing something different and for the most part doing it with taste and style.
The carnitas may be the only item on the menu that harkens back to those taco stands. It’s understated, okay and probably not up to most taco stand standards. Have no fear. The Local Taco folks do much better when traveling their own road. The Korean BBQ taco stands out with robust flavor and a nice, sesame crunch thanks to the Asian slaw. Texas brisket has a bit of smoke and zest from the pico de gallo. The amount of meat in the tacos was an issue raised by some patrons several months ago. For the most part our sampling found that this seems to have been corrected, with the exception of the buffalo chicken taco, which is tangy and a bit stingy on the chicken and blue cheese.
You have to pay for salsas and at $2.50 a pop you get a red sauce with decent heat and a green salsa with a little tang. The guacamole is simple, fresh and excellent. Black beans had a pleasant hint of citrus. Mexican rice fell flat in the flavor department.
The Local Taco serves what it calls the Tennessee Brunch on weekends. The namesake taco is super salty thanks to Benton’s country ham. Paired with red eye gravy it’s a messy, filling taco. The local scramble doesn’t fare as well- the chorizo is meek and the entire effect is rather gloppy and bland. The white grits are superb, some of the best in Nashville. They’re prepared simply and with just a little cheese and diced tomato on top. The quality could come from the provider, Water Power organic corn grits. You’ll find a number of local providers listed on the chalkboard at the back. The flour tortillas come from La Hacienda.
Margaritas are a big draw at $5.50 a glass or $21 a pitcher. They have several versions, depending on your choice of tequila. The red and white house sangria would go well on the sunny patio or open eating areas.
Veggie Eater: I really enjoy the vibe at this place, but should disclose that’s in part because we’ve always been early before the rush hits. The menu tries very hard to be very veggie friendly. Each category has a veggie option. On the first visit I opted for enchiladas; both the cheese with verde sauce and vegetarian with lemon crema sauce. The corn torts were fresh and the sauces complemented the enchiladas without drowning them. The cheese enchilada had some queso fresco in them, which added a bit more texture. The veggie enchiladas had julienned bits of zucchini and squash, as well as beans. The mac and cheese on the side was a bit bland, though it did appear to be a roux based version. On the second visit, I opted for the brunch fare, choosing huevos verdes taco and a vegetarian taco. The huevos taco featured spinach, zucchini and jack cheese nestled into eggs, then tucked into a flour tortilla. The veggie taco consisted of queso fresco, beans, zucchini, red pepper and onions. Both were very good. These are tacos made with restraint and fairly delicate flavors. My only gripe is that although the menu makes a real effort to be veggie friendly, the ingredients are essentially the same for each veggie item in each veggie category (the veggie taco is not very different from the veggie enchilada); a little more variety (how about rajas?) with the veggie items would be appreciated.
Meat Eater: The bustling and yet laid back atmosphere really pulls it all together. You order up at the counter and take a number back to your table. Someone from the staff will probably come back to check on your meal and ask how you are doing. Weekends can get a little crazy and the idea of valet parking for a taco joint may seem nuts, but is entirely necessary.
We paid $33 on one visit for a boat load of food and $21 with tax and tip for a more restrained brunch.