When you eat at T|ACO, which opens in Boulder on Wednesday, you'll be sharing space with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Annie Oakley, Raquel Welch and Robert Duvall -- or at least their likenesses.
The new urban taqueria, a 62-seat homage to tacos and spaghetti Westerns, spotlights a wall collage of actors and actresses, all of whom appeared in said Westerns, a theme, says Whitney Olmstead, the chief operating officer of T|ACO (as well as H Burger Co, a mini burger empire that has stores in both Denver and Boulder), that personifies the taqueria's playful take on Mexican street foods. "Our niche is that we're a little bit formal, a little bit kitsch," she says, adding that spaghetti Westerns will also be shown on the one television that hangs between the bar and open kitchen, which is overseen by chef Matt Collier, who spent four years as the sous chef at the Kitchen.
It's a hip space, bedecked with tin star lanterns suspended from the ceiling, cherry-red sombreros, chocolate-hued concrete floors, textured wallpaper the color of a Mexican sunset, a beetle-kill-pine community table that squats squarely between a partially open kitchen and the beautiful live-edge beetle-kill-pine bar that's flanked with stone.
And Collier's menu, which I sampled yesterday afternoon, is steeped in tacos, all of which are made with housemade corn tortillas slapped on the flat-top. "We have a phenomenal woman who comes in every day, three times a day, to make the corn tortillas," says Collier, noting that guests will be able to see all the action from the bar, which also overlooks the kitchen.
"And we're not doing rice and beans to fill people up," warns Olmstead. ""This is a young and vibrant community of foodies who want a great product at a great price, and there's a need for a good taqueria here that spends a little extra money to put out really good food. We're just doing great tacos with great tortillas and great ingredients."
And, of course, margaritas, along with Mexican beers. "Mexican beer is our specialty, and we also have a long list of tequila shooters, high-end flights and twelve specialty cocktails, which, if I have my way, will all be named after spaghetti Westerns," says Olmstead.
When T|ACO opens on Wednesday, it'll serve lunch and dinner, followed by brunch in a few weeks. And construction for a second T|ACO, which will take up in residence in the former 8 Rivers space in LoDo, will begin in early June; look for a late-July opening.
In the meantime, here's an exclusive first look of the space and foodstuffs at the Boulder T|ACO.
Marinated chicken tacos with shredded romaine, chayote squash and red-onion salsa and poblano crema.
Red snapper tacos mingling with cabbage, red onions, radishes, cilantro, green onions, avocado and chipotle mayo.
The stone-flanked bar at T|ACO, which overlooks the kitchen.
The house margarita.
Lime- and mezcal-marinated shrimp tacos with cilantro, cotija, guacamole and pico de gallo.
Housemade chips with five salsas, including an habanero salsa; chipotle; raw tomatillo and roasted poblano; pureed pico; and roasted tomatillo and jalapeno.
Exec chef Matt Collier.
Tacos a la plancha with griddled cotija, Roma tomatoes, fresh salsa verde, cilantro and guacamole.
Another view of the bar.
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The spaghetti Western wall collage.