El Taco Tequila: Once Again, A Torched Tongue

On Thursday evening, I met up with a friend who was passing through town for dinner and drinks.

I had not seen him since the days at Virginia Tech when we used to watch football together, talk about women, and drink ourselves stupid. One day I’ll reveal all my college skeletons – I think there are still plaques on the walls of Lee Hall dormitory in honor of what I refer to as Will McGough’s Ride.

Paul Revere would be proud, but that’s a story for another day.

El Taco Tequila

I picked up my buddy from the Ramada Inn off the Turnpike exit (which he described as “a place to sleep”), and I asked him what he thought of my town.

He said he noticed Santa Barbara was a crossroads, a place where young people are trying to find themselves.

I smiled, thinking about my own path.

I like to think of it as a launching pad – I don’t have much time for pessimism these days – although I suppose only time will tell.

I met him after he finished a round of golf, and we cruised downtown to check out the new taqueria El Taco Tequila, located near the intersection of Cota and State. I hadn’t eaten Mexican food in Santa Barbara since the no-tequila debacle at Altamirano’s a few weeks ago, and I was itching for a taco in preparation for my upcoming trip to Mexico.

I let out a sigh of relief when I walked in and saw that they had a full bar, and that sigh was followed by a smile when I saw they offered $2 tequila shots all day, every day.

The $2 shots are sure to make this place a regular stop for happy hours and college students – it’s a nice touch – although I passed on one Thursday night in favor of a margarita.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even have to taste it to know it was going to be bad. After I ordered one ($5), I saw the bartender reach for a plastic beer cup and begin to salt the rim (yikes.. can we get some proper glassware?).

My recommendation is to stick to beer – the margarita was tolerable, but I found myself wanting to finish it only to get it out of the way. I didn’t want to spit it out, but at the same time I didn’t want it to linger in my mouth, either – if that makes sense.

Something I learned: The salsa labeled “hot” is really fucking hot!

Bistec Tampiqueno and Pechuga de Pollo (Chicken).

I poured it all over my chicken taco, and within two bites I was chewing ice cubes, blowing my nose, and wiping my eyes. I could not even focus on my friend or the conversation – and I had no choice but to throw out the rest of the taco. It reminded me of when I got torched at the TASTE’s Tacos and Tequila event.

I asked the waitress (in jest) why she didn’t warn me that it was so hot.

She said, “Well, it says ‘hot.'”

Fair enough – but I didn’t think it would be that hot. Good Lord – handle that condiment with care.

The mild salsa was much better, and I really enjoyed it on my Cerdo de Pipian Verde (roasted pork shoulder, green chili pumpkin seed sauce, $3.75) and Bistec Tampiqueno (grilled rosemary garlic skirt steak, pablano, melted cheese, $3.75).

I really liked the melted cheese, as opposed to the globs of shredded cheese you often get at other places. The tacos were light – 2 to 3 would be needed for a meal – and they don’t give you any free chips. Still, my buddy and I were both satisfied with our experiences. I want to try the chicken again, this time without the fire in my mouth.

I think you should go check it out – grab a taco and a $2 tequila shot before your next downtown adventure. Let me know what you think.

It was not that crowded when we went (it was late on Thursday), but something tells me this place could turn into quite the party.

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