We are frequent eaters at Tacolicious in the Mission, so we were psyched to hear that more of San Francisco was headed to the South Bay when Owner Joe Hargrave and partner Chef Telmo Faria and their team decided to open a branch in Palo Alto. Taking over the cavernous space previously occupied by the Indian restaurant Mantra, this third branch (not counting Mosto) of the upscale taqueria seems much bigger than either of the other locations, especially given a private room that holds up to 40 people.
The decor has definitely been updated to reflect the T-lish look with cedar wood walls and metal chairs. A bar that stocks more than 150 different Tequilas runs along the right wall which ends with a big lit “T”:
Just as in the other locations, an addictively good warm basket of chips and nicely spiced fresh salsa is served almost immediately after you sit down:
The house cocktails are very similar to that of the other branches, but each location has it’s own unique offering. Jeremy, one of the bartenders, spent three weeks training at the Mission site and came up with the non-Tequila based Mambo Italiano (Gin, Aperol, Maraschino, grapefruit and guava juices) and mixed a very decent Paloma (El Jimador Blanco, Elderflower Liqueur, grapefruit juice). Both of the drinks were refreshing, whereas the Paloma evoked Mexico, the Mambo was very tropical:
We started with the Pescado a la Plancha from the Snacks part of the menu. We failed to ask what fish was used, but the grilled fish served with a Mojo Verde sauce and grilled lemon tasted very fresh. Delicious on its own, we could envision using this for fish tacos:
Like the other locations, tacos can be ordered in quantities of one, four or 10. Based on our experience, we know that the four taco platter is enough for two of us to share. We usually have to order two of each type to avoid having to share an individual taco. The fried rock cod (with cumin crema and cabbage) is by far our favorite filling, and this time around we went with the traditional carnitas (simply topped with onions and cilantro) which are packed high on the double tortilla shells:
To add even more flavor to the tacos, a condiment setup is provided, consisting of tomatillo-avocado, roasted tomato-chile and habanero salsas:
We drank a second round of Paloma, but one of us decided to get a shot of Tequila. We were intrigued with this Sino Tequila since it was aged in Irish Whiskey Casks (and it was a couple of days around St. Pat’s). It is probably the darkest colored Tequila we have ever seen, and it was really good — tasting more like a whiskey with tequila undertones than the other way around. Their house sangrita, made with oven-roasted tomatoes, spices and a mix of orange and grapefruit juices, was the perfect accompaniment to this Tequila sipper:
Just like at the Mission location, they commissioned local artist Paul Madonna to come up with a wall-sized mural. In this case, it’s a mural of Antonilco, Mexico; but it can easily be mistaken for the rolling hills of Silicon Valley (also note the red-painted trophies above the open kitchen):
Knowing that you are in the heart of Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, which we sometimes affectionately refer to as Shallow Alto, the clientele here is certainly different than the Mission hipsters. It’s rare to find great cocktails in the South Bay, so we are fortunate to get a little bit of San Francisco’s excellent food and bar program climate to migrate south.