It’s time for a bit of trivia! What was Bridgeport’s first Mexican restaurant? What was the first Mexican food truck in the state?
The answer to both questions is the same and it might surprise you: Taco Loco! The restaurant, which now lies on Fairfield Avenue in Black Rock, opened its doors in 1982 by bothers Miguel and Louis Tomasio. Originally, Taco Loco functioned as a small taco shop located on Main Street. It served inexpensive Mexican Food late into the night. As demand grew, the business transformed from counter service to a full scale restaurant. In 1985 Miguel added a food truck and they moved to their present-day location in 1989. Taco Loco currently seats 100 guests, has a four season patio, and a coveted food truck.
Now, in 2016, Taco Loco is about to undergo another evolution! Miguel, along with his son Zachary Tomasio, are releasing a brand new menu aimed at “authenticity and quality.” With a background in marketing and a fresh perspective, Zachary is ready to explore the latest trends and additional avenues of business.
“We really wanted to take our food, drinks, and service to the next level,” he explains. “Black Rock is growing and a lot of great chefs are coming to the area. We wanted to remind the community that we are a premier place for tacos and margaritas.”
Sometimes the best way to achieve excellence is to go back to basics. Coco Chanel famously took off one piece of jewelry to fine-tune her outfits before leaving her home. Taco Loco has embraced this approach for certain elements of the restaurant. For example, they reduced their tequila offerings from 100 different types to 11. In addition, they eliminated menu items, particularly from the appetizer section, that weren’t performing as well as the others. It was difficult to see the staples go, but it was important to the new vision.
“We want to offer only the best,” Zach attests.
The Tomasios replaced those items with an extensive list of margaritas, a completely revitalized taco list, and new forward-thinking menu items.
CTbites was invited to experience the new menu and I have all the delicious details!
When we arrived, we received a complementary basket of crispy chips and salsa- the way Taco Loco begins every meal. They also brought us some of the restaurant’s famous house made guacamole. (I love their guacamole. When I lived down the street from the restaurant, I ordered it so much that it became its own food group.) As we nibbled on the crunchy chips, we perused the totally updated margarita offerings.
“Even though we consolidated our tequila offerings we actually expanded our margarita profile,” Zach says. The new cocktails are tasty and on trend, from the Anti-Oxidant Margarita to the Mango Chipotle-Rita to the Cancun Cooler.
I selected the Anti-Oxidant Margarita, which came with Azuñia silver tequila, fresh squeezed lime, and agave nectar shaken with blueberries, raspberry, and mint. I loved it. The fruits imparted a natural sweetness and provided the perfect alternative to other margaritas I’ve had where the flavorings have made them feel artificial and syrupy. The mint imparted a touch of spice that complemented the salt and berries.
My dining companion chose the Cancun Cooler, one of Taco Loco’s bestselling drinks. It consists of Milagro silver, fresh queezed lime, agave nectar, muddled watermelon, and a pinch of cilantro. When I tried a sip, I was immediately transported to the beach and basking in the sunlight. It is the ultimate patio sipper.
Later in the evening, we also experienced the Double D. The name stands for Dobel Silver and DiSarrano Amaretto, two of the ingredients. Those combined with a fresh lime mix result in a sweeter cocktail. It tasted like tropical candy.
“We must have come up with 100 drinks,” Zach reveals. “We made them all and sampled everyone in the restaurant. The diners voted and chose what’s on the list now.”
Happily nursing our drinks, we moved onto the appetizers. We tried two of the latest dishes: the Shrimp Tostones and the Empanadas. The nicely cooked shrimp came adorned with a red “picante” sauce of onions, red peppers, green peppers, and cilantro. They sat on a hand-pressed and fried plantain. The components played off each other well. The sauce provided a spicy kick while the softer plantain added layers of texture.
In my opinion though, the empanadas stole the show. The menu noted they had chicken and chorizo. Since it was a plate of three empanadas I expected the proteins to be separate, but the chicken and chorizo came together in each! Unexpected twists continued. Dispersed throughout the meat were olives and raisins that gave a Mediterranean feel. A yummy tomatillo sauce and an amazing onion slaw also appeared on the plate. As a final touch, the empanadas had a dusting of granulated sugar. It was like fried dough meets savory Mexican goodness.
After the appetizers, it was time for tacos! Taco Loco totally redid their handheld offerings. They now offer 8 kinds of taco that patrons can mix and match: Chicken, Carne Asada, Pork, Shredded beef, Mahi Mahi, Shrimp, Vegetable, and Ground Beef. Each order includes three soft corn tortilla tacos, yucca fries, and slaw.
It was incredibly hard to choose favorites as each taco proved unique and flavorful. After much back and forth, I decided that the shredded beef, mahi mahi, and pork made up my top three. The tender and perfectly seasoned shredded beef sat atop plantain and was garnished with jalapeno. Each bite was a mixture of savory from the meat and sweet from the plantain. The soft plantain also enhanced the texture of the tortilla.
The mahi-mahi taco is something I would eat every day in the summer. It came with a mango salsa and avocado crema that made it light and fresh. The pork taco used the same onion slaw I enjoyed with the empanadas. The “cured red onion” is exceptional on its own and even better as a component.
My companion ultimately deemed the chicken, the shrimp, and the carne asada supreme. The sauces on the chicken and shrimp tacos were outstanding. Zach referred to the chicken’s sauce as “the Hispanic version of marinara” and noted that they use it in the calamari as well. Meanwhile, the shrimp taco had an incredible smoky element that comes from the chipotle sauce. In the carne asada, the meat spoke for itself. Juicy pieces of steak had been marinated for 48 hours in a family recipe.
Zach drew inspiration for the new flavors from his travels. He journeyed to San Diego, Pheonix, and even Denver to see how other chefs and regions approached the cuisine. He returned to Taco Loco with creativity abounding and spent “months in the kitchen playing with ingredients.”
“We spent days going from taco place to taco place. We’d visit seven places in a day. Don’t worry, we only had a taco or two at each stop,” he laughs. “Denver has a surprisingly strong taco scene.”
“It’s great that he is travelling,” Miguel Tomasio says proudly. It’s amazing to see my son doing the same things now that I was doing years and years ago.”
Even though the tacos alone would have impressed us as a full meal, we continued on to entrees. We ordered Arroz con Mariscos, a paella-like dish, and the Grilled Churrasco.
The Arroz con Mariscos contained large chunks of fresh, juicy seafood. Clam and mussels in their shells lined the plate while and scallops, shrimp, and octopus were embedded in the rice. To ensure the quality of their seafood, Taco Loco enlists Pagano’s Seafood in Norwalk.
“They come every morning,” says Miguel.
The plate was enormous, with a significant amount of rice. Although it appears as an entrée, I definitely recommend it for sharing. It would be the perfect thing to order and enjoy family-style along with the rest of the meal.
The Grilled Churrasco proved delicious. They prepare a prime skirt steak with one of Miguel’s dry rub recipes and grill it. Roasted potato and zucchini appear as sides. Tender and juicy, the Churrasco would satisfy a steak enthusiast.
Taco Loco is definitely worth a visit. However, if you can’t get there, they can come to you! They currently own two food trucks and two catering vans that attend to about 20 parties a week. The trucks travel all over Connecticut and even into Westchester County and New York City. They are booked for everything from office parties to summer picnics to birthday parties to weddings! They make appearances at local festivals, too.
Taco Loco is already planning for Cinco de Mayo.
“We have some wild ideas!” Zach teases. The warmer months ahead will also see the opening of Taco Loco’s patio, a favorite hangout spot in the neighborhood.
With a renewed focus on food, an array of drinks, and their mobile services, it’s just a matter of time before people embrace the Loco Lifestyle.