These are the days of miracle and wonder. A new taco joint has opened and lives up to the hype.
Owner and chef Tom Golen took over the small space on Bee Ridge Road that used to house San Diego Tacos to Go (and before that, the disappointing California Tacos to Go) and launched Tacos - To Go in late August. As its name indicates, Tacos - To Go is taco-obsessive, with Latin American specialties like burritos ($7.49), baleadas ($5.89), tortas ($8.99) and empanadas ($3.99) to round out the selection.
As the name also indicates, the eatery is doing bang-up takeout business. After we order, my friend, Justin, and my son, Felix, and I are hanging at one of the restaurant's small indoor tables. As we drool in anticipation, escapees from nearby offices enter and depart with bulging packages of foodstuffs, while men and women scroll through their Facebook feeds to kill time as they await nourishment.
The baleada catches my eye first. It's a Honduran dish, typically made with a flour tortilla wrapped around beans, queso fresco and thick, gooey crema. The structure here remains the same, with add-ins like scrambled eggs, pico do gallo, guacamole and a protein of your choice. Stuffed with al pastor pork, it comes to the table looking like a giganti-fied taco. With its thicker-than-usual puffy tortilla and broader flavors, though, it's a different beast, and it's holy-guacamole delicious.
The tacos ($3.79) themselves stick to tradition, with soft corn tortillas topped with proteins and cabbage and more pico de gallo, guacamole and queso. The chorizo taco is very nice, as is the spicy shrimp version. An enticing ceviche taco ($5.79) fails as a taco (the mixture is so moist it soaks the crispy corn tortilla, rendering the package un-holdable), but the acidified fish is bright and meaty—a feisty counterpunch to the heavier, richer flavors elsewhere.
Another hit: spiced-up yuca fries ($3.99) served with a chipotle-mayo swirl in a plastic ramekin. And to sweeten the end of your meal, the restaurant also offers house-made gelati for $3.89. I missed those my first time around, a mistake I will not make again.
Tacos - To Go is located at 2773 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. The hours are still in flux, but the restaurant is generally open from around 11 to 11:30 a.m. to 8 to 9 p.m. daily. For more info, call (941) 922-8226.