500 Tacos: Zocalo Cafe
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Hours: 11am-10pm Mon-Fri, 10am-10pm Sat-Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.05.15
For years, this Clarksville address was the home of West Lynn Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant with tall windows and a lattice of exposed white gables that gave it a kind of sunny greenhouse appeal. Zocalo hangs onto that feeling with dandelion chandeliers in white and avocado, cut flowers on every table and fresh-market Mexican food.
The taco: Fajita and tortilla sampler
Zocalo doesn’t call its fajita plate a sampler. I do, and that’s because I can get a mix of chicken and beef and try one each of their housemade corn, flour and whole wheat tortillas. Both the beef and chicken are lightly seasoned, tender and well-cooked, presented in a taco-ready DIY heap with grilled onions and some deftly grill-marked red and green bell peppers in that sweet spot between crisp and cooked. I subbed tortilla soup for rice and beans, because at Zocalo, it’s a sunny chicken soup for the Spanish sol, full of shredded chicken, sliced avocado, cheese and fried tortilla strips that hold a crunchy edge to the last spoonful. ($8.29 for three with rice and beans or one side, which should forever be tortilla soup)
► Tortillas: Not nearly enough taquerias make their own corn tortillas. Fewer still bother with flour, and almost nobody messes with whole wheat. Zocalo hits the homemade trifecta. The flour is lightly toasted outside, warm and soft inside. Whole wheat is resolutely firm and righteously grainy. But the corn disintegrates into party streamers. A windfall for house-fried tortilla chips, a landslide for taco fillings.
► Chips and salsa: Warm, sweet and mild red and green salsas come in charming molcajete bowls with a basket of housemade, freshly fried corn tortilla chips for $2.29.
► Taco tribute: In honor of the old West Lynn Cafe, I ordered Zocalo’s Tacos de Verdura plate, a trio of vegetarian tacos with the same char-roasted red and green peppers and onions as the fajitas, plus mushrooms and fresh avocado. An ensemble cast in search of a star, it’s well-staged but missing something, a something I found in part by subbing a jicama salad for rice and beans. With long pieces of crunchy, sweet jicama washed in citrus with chopped oranges and matchstick carrots, it’s refreshing both as a solo act and dropped into veggie tacos like a special guest star. ($8.29 for three with rice and beans or one side)
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)