Taco Ocho is a new fast casual Mexican inspired restaurant that opened just over a month ago in Richardson. I attended a press event and tried some of the items on the menu. The food is listed in three categories: Tacos, Tostadas (essentially open-faced corn tacos), and Tortas (thick sandwiches). Among the tacos ($3.50 for one, $6.25 for a plate with Ocho rice and refried beans, $7.95 for that plate with 2 tacos), the Cabo fish and the smoked chicken elote stood out.
The Cubana Torta (pork, ham, chorizo, jalapeños, spicy mustard, and Oaxaca cheese) and the Pobrizo Torta (grilled chorizo, poblano peppers & onions, black bean spread, Oaxaca cheese and salsa verde) were winners. But my favorite (on account of my avocado dependency) was the Mixteca. A torta with chips is $7.95.
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Tostadas are one of my favorite Mexican culinary creations but someone has to invent a container so that they can be taken home without all the ingredients falling off. At Taco Ocho, make sure they remain on top. Highlights: Sonoran (cactus, grilled jicama, red onion, pickled jalapeños, tomatoes, queso fresco, lime & cilantro vinaigrette) and the Puebla (roasted garbanzo hummus, shredded cabbage, corn pico, queso fresco and chipotle ranch). The latter is kind of “animal style” to anyone who has reached the front of the line at In-N-Out Burger. Three tostadas go for a very reasonable $6.95.
Clearly the menu at Taco Ocho is a collection of crowd pleasers but it is also an imaginative one. The service is friendly and helpful. You order at a counter and, if you eat in, the décor and fittings will remind you of McDonald’s. Brightly lit, all easy-clean surfaces and seats designed to be comfortable to slump into but discourage lingering. In the center of the room is a large communal table and on one wall a mural depicting the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City. The location is well chosen. It is a virtually empty block of Campbell just a couple of blocks from the thriving restaurant row at the southeast corner of Campbell and Central. Other places have moved in since Taco Ocho anchored the block.
This Taco Ocho is the first unit built by Mani Bhushan who held senior management positions at PepsiCo, Yum! Brands, and Blockbuster. Little wonder the concept looks so well thought through and “franchisable in 45 minutes”. The exechef is Rodolfo Cardoso whose experience at The Four Seasons Mexico City and NYLO (a hotel brand so edgy they have a unit in Plano) clearly shows in the consistency.
Based on my visit I would see Taco Ocho as a survivor in the high-end taco market. The product is tasty, the price is right, and, so far, the location for the first “unit” was carefully chosen. Now, I’ve got to go clean the tostata toppings out of my car.