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« Reheated: A New Location for Michele's Pies | Main | Reheated: CT Food News & Events [weekend edition] »

Bartaco, Portchester Opens ... Stamford is Next

Warning. Entering the sprawling beach shack-inspired restaurant bartaco in Port Chester may leave you with a case of geographical amnesia. Between the five steps it takes to reach the bar from the door, you’ll be transported to a surf shack in Montauk or Baja, any memory of the city of Port Chester erased once you’re surrounded by its white-washed walls. And better (closer) yet, a land-locked version will be coming to Stamford soon.

bartaco has three distinct volumes, laid-back lunch, taco-filled dinners and late-night dining that escalates to a scene complete with a gorgeous back-drop and menu that seamlessly matches each mood. The food at bartaco is based loosely on Mexican street food and is heavily influenced by the tides. The menu is broken up into tacos, not tacos, sides and rotisserie chicken (half or whole). 

The tacos include several seafood inspirations such as red snapper a la plancha and thai shrimp, traditional tacos including tongue and chorizo, as well as some baja-influenced pork chile verde and baja fish tacos. If you’re not of the taco persuasion, a number of salads, tamales, arepas and vegetable sides are your friend. Ordering a la carte is the way to go if you’re at bartaco for lunch. The tacos are just $2.50 each and the not-tacos average $3 to $5, fairly standard for taco fare, but down-right cheap compared to most dining options.

If you’re dining in the evening or with a group of friends, you’ll want to opt for a bartaco tray or trays. They come in two sizes, small and large, and are filled on the whim of the chef who adds tacos, tamales, sides and guacamole until there isn’t a square inch of tray left. This Mexican tapas approach lends itself well to the street food-influenced menu. Eaten alone, each element can lose its lustre, but together, a tray filled with these bites offers a melody of flavor and textures. bartaco’s guacamole is particularly good, with hunks of avocados left intact with a barely discernible note of garlic and spice. This knack for subtlety and pairings is found throughout the menu and presentation. It may come as no surprise that the cohesion found at bartaco is similar to the owners other successful series of restaurants, Barcelona.

Washing your tacos down with a margarita is highly encouraged, if not mandatory. At each corner of the bar stands a lime squeeze, ready, willing and able to handle each made-to-order margarita. If you’re a fan of the margarita mix, (first, I’m sorry to hear that), I dare you to go back to a mix after a fresh margarita. There is no secret here, just simple and fresh ingredients at work with bartaco offering an abundance of tequilas and a few mezcals, all in all a perfect complement to the taco.

Later in the evening, the volume turns up as the crowd thickens. For the late night diners (they are open until 3 am), the food is still abundant and the cocktail menu gets more creative with sassy drinks like the Smoky Cholula, a mixture of mezcal, guava nectar and lemon juice. A DJ arrives and bartaco will become a scene.

Anytime you visit bartaco, the food should be digested with the space, a well-designed and breezy loft-like cube, made warm and inviting with the addition of huge black and white photographs, round rattan lights and blue and white touches throughout. An outdoor area makes use of an expansive deck with even more seating options, so close to the water you could ditch your wheels and take your boat home. The result of this beautiful design and careful staging, is an atmosphere so evocative of a beach-side watering hole, it practically conjures a side of salty ocean breeze with your tacos.

See you in Stamford, bartaco.

bartaco is open seven days a week from 11:30 am to 3:30 am, located at Willett Avenue in Port Chester, NY. A second location is opening at 222 Summer Street in Stamford, CT. Take-out service and a small shop selling salsas and other bartaco items will be opening soon. | Twitter: @bartacoPC


[Photographs by Tom McGovern]

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Reader Comments (9)

The decor looks swwaheet! Nice photos!

January 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

Love the decor and the lighting. Great work!

January 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpath lighting

I ate at bartaco today for lunch and it was amazing. I highly recommend it, and I, too, can't wait for it to open in Stamford - too bad it won't be located by the water.

Here's my review:

January 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdenise

Great review Denise! We did more of a newsy piece above since I only got to taste tacos, but after reading yours I definitely want to try the tamales. My favorites were the margs (I like them sour) and guacamole, but definitely bringing back a bunch of friends to try it out.

January 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterAmy Kundrat

Can't wait to try this, sounds amazing! Is this where Ebb Tide used to be??

And how does it compare to El Charrito?

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermike d

You're right, this is where Ebb Tide used to be. El Charrito and bartaco are like apples and oranges. The former is traditional and well executed. bartaco takes lots of contemporary liberties and is clearly influenced by a beach shack fare. If you're hankering for El Charrito, nothing else will do in my experience but bartaco has an amazing layout and space. Definitely check it out.

January 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterAmy Kundrat

Finally something to get excited about in Stamford!! Can't wait!

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Libre

Thanks Amy. I definitely wanna try their fish tacos and arepas. Looking forward to going back, and possibly checking out the nite scene =)

January 18, 2011 | Registered Commenterdenise

Add me to the list of people who recommend the first of two Bar Tacos. I stopped by on the way home from the airport for a little afternoon snack and ordered a Baja Fish, a spicy Chorizo and a Veal Cheek taco. The Fish and Cheeks were excellent and I liked the chorizo, but found it a little salty for my taste. The verde and the chipotle sauces were spicy enough for me, and I will let others try the habanero.

I also thought the decor was very cool and did give the beach motif. I think this will be a real hot spot when the weather changes and people can hang outside, drinking one of their 34 Tequilas and having some excellent tacos.

January 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

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