For an indication of how we feel about El Taco, I need only tell you: In the midst of our extensive taco sampling, we've ignored the sea of other taco contenders and eaten there twice.
Needless to say, we like El Taco.
Sited on Virginia Avenue just between Virginia Highland and Morningside, El Taco is just the right balance of ~hip~ and casual: the restaurant has a cute outdoor patio, twinkly lights, an indoor bar and an outdoor to-go window (!) from which, on more crowded evenings, guests can grab a beer to sip while they wait for an available table. More importantly, the restaurant has delicious tacos, margaritas and tortilla chips, all offered at decent prices. (Around here, we call that a homerun).
As far as tacos: I’ve sampled the fried fish (duh) and the veggie. The fish has a nice mayo sauce that’s simple enough not to overpower the fish, but flavorful enough not to be too bland. The veggie (black beans, zucchini, onions, sweet peppers and queso) was good, but for future visits I think I'll skip it and stick to a double order of fish.
The chips are tasty, too, but what really stands out in this category is the free salsa bar, which offers an array of options diners can sample and peruse to their heart’s content. I’m partial to the spicy habanero. To boot, the plain salsa that comes with chips is also a solid dipping option. And I'm pleased to report that all salsa flavors pair delightfully well with the house margaritas, which are priced just above $6 and are maybe a 7.5/8 on the strength scale. I approve.
And then, El Taco’s Claim to Fame: The PRIZE WHEEL. We were perplexed on our first visit when the served handed us each a fistful of poker chips with numbers scrawled on them in Sharpie, but we later understood The Price Wheel's magnificence.
Each hour, the bartenders spin The Prize Wheel and select a number. Whoever's chip has the winning digit earns some sort of prize. It could be a margarita, a pitcher of beer, a taco, a dessert—the possibilities are endless. On our second visit, we won a churro, which was heavenly. It had some kind of frosting or cream in the middle and was the best churro I’ve ever had.
Another bonus: Parking! A rarity in the city, and further incentive for us to ignore the other taquerias on our growing to-be-visited list in lieu of a third visit to El Taco.