Sometimes you just want a good taco. That's what Sarah Castillo says about why she left Mallorca, Spain, and moved back home, to Fort Worth, to buy a taco truck.
It's a theme we find across Dallas-Fort Worth: Sometimes you just want a good taco. They don't have to be complicated. They're often not expensive. And while tacos have had their own rung on the Texas food pyramid for decades, there's no sign that North Texans are tiring of them. Thankfully.
In late July and early August in Dallas, two notable taco shops have popped up in two buzzy neighborhoods: Velvet Taco is now open on McKinney Avenue in Uptown Dallas, making it the late-night taco company's second biggest opening behind the oh-so-popular original. And Taco Heads, the Fort Worth food truck that spawned a Fort Worth shop, has now moved in to Dallas, in a sweet spot on Henderson Avenue.
Both taco shops have similar aesthetics: splashes of bright pink with hints of grass green. Both have patios. Both are poised to serve youngish crowds in vibrant neighborhoods.
Take your pick, here are two taco shops worth a bite this fall.
You have to appreciate a success story that involves a minivan.
Castillo had lived in Colorado, New York and Spain after graduating from the University of Texas in Austin. Each city reinforced the same lesson: "You work and you find a great restaurant to love," she says. "That's always your mission."
And isn't it?
She moved back home, impressed by Fort Worth's funky, Austin-like restaurants popping up in the late 2000s and boldly decided she "wanted to be part of that growth," she says. But the path to buying her first food truck involved saving major cash. So she drove her mom's minivan and lived in her parents' house while she worked full-time for the Texas Rangers in its corporate office by day, worked as a server at Eddie V's Prime Seafood in Fort Worth by night. A little over a year later, in 2010, her Taco Heads food truck was rolling in Fort Worth.
Slowly, Castillo and her business partner Jacob Watson -- who she met in an Uber, of all places -- expanded the business in 2016 to a restaurant in Fort Worth on Montgomery Street. "We got a really good deal," she explained of the chancy location. She now feels lucky that the city is building a 14,000-seat arena to the tune of $540 million very close by.
Castillo and Watson later partnered with chef Christian Lehrmann and opened the Taco Heads in Dallas. Coincidentally, the building they've moved in to, at 1921 N. Henderson Ave., is where Castillo says she had her "first experience at a Dallas restaurant." It's changed hands several times over the years, formerly operating as Lekka and the Gin Mill, to name two.
Taco Heads in Dallas, which opened July 26, serves breakfast tacos all day and is similar to the Fort Worth restaurant and food truck, where some of the original recipes were inspired by Castillo's mom.
For lunch, dinner or late-night, the restaurant sells tacos like al pastor with grilled pineapple and garlic-cilantro shrimp with pickled slaw. Alongside appetizers like guacamole and queso blanco, Taco Heads does elotes (street corn) -- which are worth the small upcharge to be added as a side to a two- or three-taco plate.
Taco Heads is located at 1921 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas.
Another day, another Velvet Taco, right? Wrong. Its Plano-based parent company has perfected the late-night taco game in Dallas. In fact, Grant Morgan, director of food and beverage, wouldn't mind if the newest Velvet Taco on McKinney Avenue in Uptown Dallas took away some of the business from the original on Henderson Avenue.
If you've stood in line for tacos at 3 a.m. at the original taco shop, you get it. Uptown's new Velvet Taco has the potential to grab customers closer to home.
Although it moved into a former Urban Taco, few of its features, beyond the patio, were left behind. Velvet Taco customers order at the counter and sit at communal tables near an open kitchen where chickens are spinning on rotisseries and chefs can be seen assembling the 20-some varieties of new-age tacos.
While this Velvet Taco will serve longtime favorites like spicy tikka chicken and buffalo chicken, the chef team is re-launching three of the four brunch tacos. Because brunch. Uptown. You just do it.
"We just needed to up our brunch game in general," Morgan says. "We do great lunch, great dinner, great late night." Why not try to beckon Uptowners in a little earlier?
New brunch menu items include a Monte Cristo taco loaded with ham, gruyere, strawberry-jalapeno salsa and more; and a chicken and waffles taco. Deep breath, here we go: The chicken and waffles taco is stuffed with chicken tenders, gravy, green apple slaw, maple syrup, bacon, red chili aioli and chives. It's served on a waffle tortilla, made in a press like ice cream shops make waffle cones. For $4.75, doesn't that sound like a deal?
This Velvet Taco, like all the others, will sell rotisserie chicken out a side window for $20, with a deal of $10 on Mondays.
Customers won't find the Instagram-worthy phrase "I love tacos so much" spraypainted outside the building anymore. That was Urban Taco, this is Velvet Taco. But dude-bros everywhere will appreciate a new phrase painted inside the restaurant instead: "Tikkas over chicas."
Velvet Taco is located at 3411 McKinney Ave., Dallas.