Introducing The Taco Shop
If the lack of available parking was cited as a reason for the shutdown and reconfiguration of Plow and Anchor, the locavore surf-and-turf standout that opened at Pennsylvania and 9th Street in the spring of 2014, the crowds of hungry lunch-goers last week weren’t showing it. But when there’s a taco, there’s a way. Put out the word that you’ll be hand-pressing tortillas filled with carne asada and pork al pastor, and people will walk, bike, bus, or fight for the last street spot to get a taste. That’s exactly what The Taco Shop (43 E. 9th St., 317-964-0538) co-owners Derek Means and Craig Baker did when they posted photos of the new decor on Facebook in recent weeks and let potential customers know they’d be opening for business last Tuesday offering just 400 made-from-scratch tacos every day, period. Take a siesta and you don’t get salsa roja with fresh chips or churros with warm bittersweet-chocolate dipping sauce.
And while the throngs who waited, sometimes as long as 30 minutes, for their taco lunch last week got a taste of what the new place could offer, many were asking just what a new taqueria could offer when nearly every corner of the city has a carniceria or cantina offering up Mexican street food. First off, Means and Baker, who tagged former Local Eatery & Pub sous chef Evan Slusher to head up the Taco Shop kitchen, have cornered a relative Latin food desert for workers downtown. Nada and Bakersfield may have some pretty tasty tacos, but for cheap eats, grab-a-bag, eat-at-your-desk fare, the Mile Square and its surroundings are pretty bereft. Second, the tortillas that you can see being pressed right in front of you are spot-on—hearty and sturdy enough to hold up to whatever gets stuffed in them with just the right char from the griddle. That alone is enough reason to wait.
But the fillings have some real promise, too. Recipes may have been tweaked as the week went on, but Slusher and his crew are serving up four solid daily offerings, from crispy bits of marinated pork to beefy braised skirt steak to a vegetarian surprise with seared sweet potatoes and ancho black beans. Guac and other add-ons are worth it, too, though diners should skip the mild and go straight for the smokier, rounder salsa roja, which brightens just about everything you pour it on. And save some room, if you can, for perfectly crispy fried churros with just the right sweetness balanced with that dark and deeply chocolatey sauce. It will send you back to the office with a smile on your face, even if your morning meeting went late and you didn’t get there in time for a chicken taco.