The first warm days of the year usually find me on a patio with a margarita in my hand. Spring fever! Last week I left work early to enjoy a relaxing afternoon of sunshine with my man.
We went to Tijuana Garage in L5P just down the street. They used to have a lush patio several years ago, then the place changed names a couple of times, finally reverting back to the original name and concept. In the past, the food was alright, but like many restaurants with a great patio, it was more about the atmosphere.
I was hoping the food had improved over the years, noting the revised menu online. A whole page is devoted to tacos, cashing in on the current taco craze. If you can wrap it in a tortilla, it’s a taco. They offer an Athenian taco, just like a gyro, and one called Chee-burger, Chee-burger….no explanation necessary. Twenty-eight tacos to choose from including six vegetarian options.
LC and I chose the hightop in the corner and ordered some queso with jalapenos, guacamole, and most importantly, margaritas. I knew he would love the margarita called Skinny Monster made with Herradura Silver tequila and fresh squeezed lime juice because the menu says “say goodbye to sour!” He hates sour mix. They were $8.99 each and not available by the pitcher, unfortunately.
Along with the menu changes, the patio had been renovated. It wasn’t nearly as cute as I remembered. The uncomfortable black metal tables and chairs were still there, the epitome of discomfort, and there were fewer plants.
Our salt-rimmed margaritas arrived with a bucket of really good chips. I was impressed with the consistency and flavor of the queso as well as the guacamole and salsa.
Although it was a beautiful afternoon, it was getting a little chilly so we moved to a table near the patio bar, partially protecting us from the elements, yet still outdoors. Then we ordered tacos, two each, with a side of sweet potato fries.
My love of sweet potatoes is no secret. Fried, baked, souffled, pureed, I love ‘em any way I can get ‘em. I was expecting fries cut lengthwise, but instead, Tijuana Garage cuts them like thick waffle fries. If they were regular potatoes I wouldn’t have liked them, but with sweet potatoes, anything goes. They were crisp and yummy.
I ordered a Playa del Carmen taco filled with blackened shrimp, pico de gallo, Mexican slaw and chipotle aioli and a carne asada taco with grilled skirt steak, diced onion, pico de gallo, jalapenos, and fresh cilantro, both on corn tortillas for $3.99 each.
Playa del Carmen is one of my favorite towns in Mexico. The beaches are beautiful and the food is spicy! So I was a bit disappointed with my shrimp taco, especially since it was on a flour tortilla. I added some guac and ate it anyway, however I sent back the carne asada in favor of the corn tortilla I had ordered.
The best tacos I’ve ever eaten were in Playa del Carmen, made with incredibly tender beef, diced onion, and cilantro on homemade corn tortillas. That was five years ago and ever since, I have searched in vain for that taco. But no one has been able to match the tortillas’ intense corn flavor. Tijuana Garage was no exception, although their carne asada stands up to any other in town.
At this point, both LC and I were on our third margaritas. He was enjoying his Cabo fried fish taco made with the same toppings as my shrimp taco and a Tennessee Twister filled with slow-cooked pork, housemade bacon BBQ sauce, southern slaw, and jalapenos. I tried a bite, but I’m not a BBQ lover so it was just OK for me.
It was now evening so we moved yet again to a booth indoors. I had never been inside the restaurant and was surprised how spacious it was. More margaritas.
Along with tacos, Tijuana Garage serves all of the expected Tex-Mex favorites including burritos, quesadillas, and fajitas. They also offer weekend brunch with creative dishes like cinnamon plantain crepes and a breakfast relleno.
A shot of Herradura Silver here is $7.50, which doesn’t sound so bad until you know that it is $3 at Pure. If I was judging them strictly on tacos, I may give an edge to The Original El Taco. Aside from the high drink prices, we really enjoyed the food and the atmosphere, inside and out. We will definitely return to enjoy the patio in the months to come!
351 Moreland Avenue 404-537-2858