Located two miles east of 35W on East Lake, Sonora Grill was recently received accolades from several local publications, so I decided to give their tacos a go. With ample parking, both on the side and behind, plus on the side street it was an easy stop. The restaurant offers seating both inside and outside under its pergola.
The menu is broken into several sections, but I was there for a taco sampling so I ordered four, the pork, chicken, tongue and skirt steak. The menu described minor modification to the accompaniments to each of the meats, ranging from Chipotle salsa, to cabbage, to onions, plus a few with cheese. When they arrived the first noticeable trait was the amount of filling; Sonora Grill serves as much filling as any taco I have ever eaten. It challenges the guest to carefully wrap, lift and bite without losing any of the filling. The second, very positive item, was the onions, not raw or flash grilled onions, but beautifully caramelized, which was a fantastic addition.
The best of the four tacos was the “Tongue.” The menu mentioned it included Chipotle salsa, cilantro, onions and cabbage. I saw no salsa. When I asked the server, he mentioned that the salsa was mixed into the meat. Whether this was true or not, this combination was outstanding. It delivered great flavor and texture from the meat, which was soft and delightful. The cabbage added just a touch of crunch and the thinly sliced jalapeño pepper slices kicked the spice level without overwhelming the other flavors.
The other taco that was delicious was the “Pork Guajillo” served with melted Chihuahua cheese, onion and chipotle salsa. The pork was slowly braised to create a subtle texture, and in combination with the sweet caramelized onions and jalapeños create a great balance. Again I was told that the chipotle salsa was mixed into the meat. I really liked the addition of the caramelized onions that added an unusual sweet component to the tacos.
Unfortunately the other two were not as good as these two. The “Chicken Rioja” was served with Chihuahua cheese, Arbol aioli, and orange salsa. The chicken was first spiced with smoky seasoning and then cut into small dices before joining orange segments, thinly sliced jalapeño peppers, caramelized onions and some cilantro. The chicken was dried out, chewy and the seasoning overwhelmed the flavor. The aioli added a great creaminess (which was really required) and the oranges brightened and balanced the dish.
The “Beef Skirt Steak” was the polar opposite of the tongue, so much so that I left more than half on the plate. The menu stated it was accompanied with Chihuahua cheese, onions and chipotle salsa. Mine was also prepared with shredded cabbage, sliced jalapeños and re-fried beans. The meat was so vastly overcooked that it was impossible to chew. There was no opportunity to include the salsa in the meat and once again it was missing. The addition of the beans was an attempt to save this combination but it failed. This should never have left the kitchen.
Overall I liked two of the four tacos but the other two were badly executed. The amount of filling was substantial but I question whether the server was completely honest when he told me the chipotle salsa was mixed into the meat.