Tortaco: a Lot of Smoke, and Tacos

Tortaco signage

Tortaco: Smoke and Tacos, Tacos and Smoke

Downtown on Ross, in a space that used to house two failed (yet delicious) Stephan Pyles restaurants, is Tortaco, a reasonably priced Mexican restaurant that is obsessed with Mezcal.

If you’ve had Mezcal, you know it.

It’s a smoky liquor related to tequila but, well, just super smoky. It’s one of those flavors like truffles; it’s overpowering in its flavor and either you love it or hate it.

Personally, I’m not a fan. Smoke flavor, when we’re not talking barbecue, tends to get overwhelming for me after a while. And while I appreciate that Tortaco is trying to push folks’ tastes forward with their Mezcal-centric cocktail menu, when every single cocktail has Mezcal, whether or not the smoke fits in with the flavor profile of the drink, it’s too much.

The atmosphere of the place is a bit disappointing, honestly. Admittedly I’m not the biker bar type, so the interior with its super dark, heavy metal-colored walls with chains everywhere wasn’t appealing to me. Perhaps in the light of day, it’s not quite so dark and Bad To The Bone-esque.

What is working at Tortaco is the uniqueness of the food. Chef Nico Sanchez has been given a lot of freedom to play after developing successful menus at La Ventana and Meso Maya. The menu offers up a wide variety of flavors, from steakhouse to Asian to Tex-Mex to Southern. I wouldn’t say the menu was particularly cohesive, but it was delicious!

 

mac and cheese at Tortaco
decadent mac and cheese at Tortaco

 

The Bad To The Bone interior at Tortaco
The Bad To The Bone interior at Tortaco
This dish featured raw fish and almost felt like poké
This dish featured raw fish and almost felt like poké
Cauliflower under a blanket of cheese.
Cauliflower under a blanket of cheese.
A beef torta at Tortaco
A beef torta at Tortaco
Tiniest taco -- but with big delicious flavor.
Tiniest taco — but with big delicious flavor.
Ceviche, with a surprising goat cheese addition, was well-balanced and tasty
Ceviche, with a surprising goat cheese addition, was well-balanced and tasty
Smoke on smoke on smoke with a dash of grapefruit
Smoke on smoke on smoke with a dash of grapefruit
Smoke on smoke on smoke with a dash of pineapple
"Date dessert" was a bit smoky. After all that smoke I was ready for something else. “Date dessert” was a bit smoky. After all that smoke I was ready for something else.

 

Tortaco // 2100 Ross, Suite 100 // tortaco.com

 


 

Disclaimer: I was invited in to sample Tortaco’s menu, and thus our meal was comped. Clearly glowing reviews can’t be bought, as this one was not quite glowing. No matter how a meal goes, I always appreciate the opportunity to experience a restaurant and then to share my experience with you all!