In Northside, you can seemingly skip from one taco or burrito joint's rooftop to another without touching earth. Tacocracy (pronounced, "Tock-OCK-ruh-see") is the neighborhood's latest addition, literally a stone's throw from a similar venture, Django Western Taco.
Django's proverbial day in the sun has ostensibly been squelched by the hype and buzz surrounding Tacocracy, and if one were to read too deeply into it, the takeaway might be something along the lines of, "Cool people eat at Tacocracy, squares eat at Django."
Don't buy it, folks. There's plenty of room for two sheriffs in town.
Tacocracy is crazy-hip in a goth-punk, Suicide Girls, why-the-fuck-did-you-kill-WOXY sort of way. Walking up the short ramp to the front counter centerpiece, my first impression upon eyeing the tattooed, pierced and torn fishnet stocking-legged employees was firstly, "God bless bad-ass brunettes, for they shall rule this earth," followed by the thought that I had just stepped into a Trent Reznor concert. Not like that's a bad thing: I liked Nine Inch Nails (cough...unintelligible) years ago.
Along either side of the ramp is a wedge of space with a few small tables. The rest of the dining area is outside on the patio. In the back room is a boutique shop of sorts (aka the bizarrely-named "Northside International Airport") with distinct sections for old musical equipment; vintage bicycles; homemade soaps and makeup; and eclectic clothing you might find at similar shops in Yellow Springs, Ohio. An "art gallery" is available in one of the rear bathrooms, open for viewing so long, of course, as it's not occupied.
Tacocracy's menu is simple enough: colorfully scrawled onto a wall-sized chalkboard are their seven signature tacos, three salsas and chips, guacamole and queso options. A vintage Coca-Cola cooler houses Mexican Cokes and Jarritos for a slight, obligatory nod toward authenticity.
We chose all but the adobo-curry chicken taco, plus chips, a very delicious rojo salsa and a Mexican Coke. Had we seen the second, much smaller chalkboard advertising the "round trip flight," we would have gotten more bang for our buck: it's a $27 combo special that includes all seven tacos, chips, guacamole and three salsas. Maybe if that board were hanging next to the larger one, it wouldn't be so easy to miss.
The tacos are some of the prettiest in town: filled with an eye-dazzling array of colorful ingredients, Tacocracy demonstrates the power of presentation. But the tacos are unwieldy, with many of the wetter components soaking through the white-corn, don't-call-me-flour tortillas to the point that you wish for a fork. We used our chips as utensils to scoop up the inevitable taco debris.
The Korean Beef was easily my favorite taco, with a rich, almost chocolately flavor to it, like a good mole, aided by the acidic pineapple salsa and napa and radish slaw. The Duck Taco gets high marks for its shredded texture, while its crunchy corn tortilla container failed to prevent it from exploding in my hands. My Green Chorizo was an interesting combo of ground pork and bits of black-pepper bacon, topped with romaine and drizzled with a light crema.
The I Hate Tofu taco was the most gorgeous to look at, a technicolor blend of grape tomatoes, onions, roasted tofu, lettuce and queso fresco. The Mushroom Medley taco was slightly smoky but a little bland compared to La Mexicana's stellar mushroom tacos, and the Schmashed 'Tater taco's primary redeeming notes were its baby corn textures and its spicy sriracha crema kick, which offset the bold, nearly overpowering grain mustard flavor.
Overall, Tacocracy lets its tacos' artful presentations write a check their flavors can't quite cash. Still, there's no denying the quality of the ingredients, and the place is new and popular enough that we can expect further recipe tweaks to enhance the experience.
Sheriff #2, welcome to Northside.