The answer, of course, is yes. Many places. But Torchy's Tacos didn't ask to wear that heavy crown, and I didn't want to drink any Hater-ade without doing some research first.
Mass hysteria surrounding a Buzzfeed article late last month rose around all 19 of the Texas food truths covered. But I was especially curious about the assertion that "there is no place on this good earth that serves better tacos than Torchy’s." As a Newstonian, I thought I might be the one to bring some reason to the debate. I have no inborn Houstonian chauvinism to muddy the taco waters against the Austin-based chain. So yesterday evening, I decided it was time to form my own opinion.
The Torchy's menu is a many-splendored thing. I would be lying if I said it wasn't difficult to skip the several breakfast tacos and fried avocado in favor of the ones I did choose.
I was happy to sip my prickly pear-flavored Maine Root Pink Drink and bite into the matching Mr. Pink taco. The strangely shaped pieces of tuna seared with a crust of guajillo powder didn't fit well into the corn tortillas, but the fresh cabbage slaw and cilantro paired so well with the spicy fish that I didn't mind. My only real objection was the less-than-stellar addition of queso fresco to the mix. Tuna + queso = No, just no.
The green chile pork was a standout, bursting with salty pulled meat tangy with tomatillos. The accompanying salsa verde, with visible char and chunks of jade cilantro, worked for me, too. Yes, there was queso fresco on it, as there is on everything but dessert at Torchy's, but it worked far better in that context.
In fact, it was one of the few things going for the Democrat. It turns out, Torchy's barbacoa is seriously lame. The beef has a texture that can most charitably be described as pre-chewed, with avocados adding to the mush.
I was a fan of the street corn, especially a squeeze of lime to contrast with the hint of heat from squiggles of ancho aioli and a dusting of chile powder. Or maybe I'm just a fan of salt. There was an ample dose.
I'm an adult who doesn't tend toward calling food outright "gross." But my Torchy's meal ended with something for which I had few other words. Some people like raw cookie dough. I do not. And being served hot, breaded balls of it with unmixed salt crystals crunching held less than no appeal. I brought them home to bake into an edible form.
My conclusion: There are some good things at Torchy's. There are some very unappetizing things there, too. There's no reason not to go there. But if you're looking to reach taco nirvana, you're more likely to find it at any number of local trucks, taquerias or restaurants. Sample widely and enjoy.