A recent rainy day, much like this one, when the Trinity River heaved under the bridges, called for tacos. Questing, I went to Del Sur Tacos on Jefferson Avenue, and I was reminded what a treasure we have in Ismael and Olmy Sanchez’s enclave.
I hadn’t been inside since last year, when it was one of the last reviews I filed in March about a place that had opened in the summer of 2019. I was blown away all over again.
It’s the same stupendous cochinita pibil taco, a stewy mound of pork, slow-roasted in banana leaves, ruddy with spices and topped with fuchsia-pink pickled onions to cut cleanly through the wonderous slurry of spice. It’s the same chile relleno taco, which is a marvel: a little torpedo of battered chile stuffed with panela cheese and swathed in guajillo-morita chile salsa that threatens to gush to pieces at first bite. You find the craggy, crackling chips and the guacamole with its touch of orange. You reach for bottles of salsa, one green and potent with heat; the other leans roasty and dusky yellow. It’s all where I left it, at a time when everything was better than it had to be. That’s still true today.
But now there are sequined curtains in shades of silver, rose, blue, and gold, glistening sheets that beg for festivities.
Change has come. They’ve redone the watering hole, too. The blue-painted, luchador-themed side room, where handmade masks hang from the ceiling and murals show figures posing in tongue-in-cheek superhero-boxer bravura has been turned into a proper bar called El Azul Bar. There, you can find a roster of cocktails—the sort with heavily chile-spiked, salted rims—that run the gamut from the expected tropical piña coladas to margaritas and micheladas. At brunch, you can order a $25 Tarasca, a four-person goblet of fiery libation with citrus jutting jauntily from the top. Tarasco is the name for the indigenous people of Michoacán, from which Ismael hails. Hence the name, as the depths swirl with a white rum from the central Mexican state. People had been asking for a full bar, Ismael says.
I took it all in, swaying to the DJ tunes swirling like the dazzle of sequins. (DJs spin live on Thursday and Friday nights.)
Del Sur has not only survived but grown during the pandemic, a spot themed around the wrestling of luchadors that has shown its own grit.
Don’t all go at once. But also, do. Make designs for the Cali burrito, overstuffed with pinto beans and swaths of guacamole. Plan for the brunch menu’s tres leches–drizzled waffles and vibrant chilaquiles. Take in the changes of the last couple of months. Sigh in relief. It’s so much like them to take it all swinging, but keep the fundamentals sacred.
Update: A new drink menu will debut Friday, May 28, Ismael says. The story above was also updated to reflect information about the Tarasca.