Margaritas and patios just go together. When any new taqueria opens I am excited to give it a try, sipping margaritas outside while enjoying the heat of the Summer, and hopefully, some kickass tacos. So when I got the press release for Bad Dog Taqueria in May, that image came to mind. However, I was informed that they did not have their liquor license yet, so I gave ‘em a couple of months to work out that all-important kink.
Fast forward three months. Surely, they’d have tequila by now! But alas, government red tape had delayed the liquor license but we were welcome to bring our own beer or wine. I checked out the menu online and was sufficiently intrigued, so LC and I headed to Emory Village in Decatur, a solid six minutes from my place, with a cooler full of Corona Lights and salted lime wedges.
We scored rockstar parking on the street right in front. I was surprised that there were only two tables on the patio, so we stepped inside and said hello to owner Tracy who was working behind the counter of her brightly modern space. White plastic chairs provided a fresh contrast to the exposed brick walls and long bar made out of a thick slab of tree, bark and all.
I already knew I had to try We’ve got Seoul, a flour tortilla filled with Korean BBQ pork belly, kimchee slaw and salsa verde. I also had my eye on Evita, with grilled flank steak, crispy yucca, and chimichurri sauce, but the special, called Campenchano, quickly took its place. A corn tortilla filled with flank steak, chorizo, jalapeno-tomatillo sauce, red onion, and cilantro….could it be the taco of my dreams?
LC would predictably get their fish taco made with plantain encrusted (a.k.a. fried) tilapia, cilantro sauce, and slaw, while I tried the plantain encrusted chicken topped with lettuce, tomato, and jalapenos. LC also chose Yo Mama’s Taco, an old school hard corn shell with the traditional fillings of ground beef, shredded cheese, lettuce and tomato. No argument here.
And then there was the mac ‘n’ cheese taco, an off-menu creation of penne, cream sauce, and herbs. But first we had to start with chips, the trio of salsas, and guacamole. Sounds basic, but every component was an innovative take on the usual. Chips are made fresh daily from a variety of vegetables. Fire roasted tomato salsa was smoky hot, plantain pineapple serrano salsa was sweet with some heat, while the chunky salsa fresca had the biggest kick of the three.
Guacamole is made from grilled avocados, adding a smoky dimension to the appropriately chunky dip. Super thin chips made of yucca, plantain, and boniato were similar to potato chips and outshone the ones made of corn. I didn’t even realize there was queso available until I got home and took a closer look at the printed menu….apparently a new addition to the offerings.
Then the baskets of tacos arrived. There is little that can be done to make tacos look pretty in photos. We began sampling them, taking turns with chicken, fish, pork, and beef. I was expecting chunks of fatty pork belly with BBQ sauce in the We’ve got Seoul, but instead found tender, juicy shredded pork. It could have used more of the kimchee slaw, and for me and LC, preferably fiery hot kimchee.
Likewise, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer perfection of Yo Mama’s Taco. All of the tortillas are made locally, which was evident in the thin and crispy corn shell. It didn’t get soggy because the ground beef was not at all greasy.
Continuing our tasting, LC and I agreed the fish taco was too fishy…our least favorite.
A knife and fork were required to conquer the pasta taco, a thin bread-like shell which I believe Tracy said was made with bread crumbs like one would sprinkle on top of a baked pasta dish…..at least that’s what LC understood. It was a great gimmick, one that I had already read about on another blog, but not something I would order again.
But the best was yet to come. The special was double wrapped in soft corn tortillas that were yellow, meaning made with yellow corn. I added a little guacamole and took a bite….OMG. The steak was fall-apart tender, and the tortillas tasted like corn!
Bad Dog Taqueria has come the closest to recreating the authentic tacos I fell in love with in Playa del Carmen….not a small accomplishment!
With a selection of tacos with quirky names and multi-cultural flavors, I was afraid the restaurant could suffer from an identity crisis. And, yes, I was initially disappointed by the lack of a real patio. However, Bad Dog won us over with its tasty tacos that manage to be creative without being contrived.
So fetch yourself some beers and go to Bad Dog. Sit. Stay. Enjoy!
1579 North Decatur Road 404-370-8822