Taqueria 27: Taqueria wraps gourmet ingredients into tacos
Dining out • Quality tequila, fare add up to a pleasant experience at Taqueria 27.
Published: January 17, 2013 10:47AM
Updated: May 5, 2013 11:32PM
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Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune Side orders of cumin and veggie studded lentils and cilantro rice at Taqueria 27 in Salt Lake City.

Bring together an accomplished chef, a prime neighborhood location, edgy cuisine and designer tacos and you get Taqueria 27.

The restaurant, called T27 for short, is owned by chef Todd Gardiner, who spent several decades working in Utah restaurants, most recently at Z’Tejas at The Gateway. At T27, he offers his interpretation of Latin American street food with a menu of high-end tacos and tequila cocktails. It’s all delivered in a casual yet trendy atmosphere in Salt Lake City’s Lamplighter Square shopping area on Foothill Boulevard.

T27 has three daily specials worth noting: a guacamole of the day, a taco of the day and a fish of the day. They are listed on the wall-size chalkboard along with artistically drawn tequila bottles — a nod to the restaurant’s impressive drink menu.

In addition to the wall art, I enjoyed T27’s décor with upcycled cardboard light fixtures and exposed rafters above your table. There also are sleek and modern furnishings and a shiny bar.

Tacos are the star here. Orders come in either two or four of one filling. You can’t mix or match. Our table decided to go buffet style and ordered four orders of four different tacos so we could sample one of each. I can’t really understand why taco fixings can only be portioned in either two or four, but if a restaurant refuses to cater to customer wishes, I’ll be forced to get creative.

The tacos on the regular menu come on house-made corn tortillas and are paired with a specific slaw/vegetable and sauce combination. Fish tacos ($6.49 or $12.99) come grilled or fried with tamarindo slaw, cilantro-lime crema and a zippy jalapeño tartar sauce that our table raved about. Carnitas ($5.79 or $11.59) feature citrus-marinated pork dressed with a smoky, charred tomatillo salsa, pickled red onions for bite and crunchy chicharrones—because two kinds of pork are better than one. The wild mushroom tacos were disappointing as the mushrooms were rubbery, which was too bad because the Gorgonzola, chimichurri and crispy fried leeks on top could have made these a standout.

One evening I also enjoyed a heavenly beef tongue (lengua) taco ($6.49 or $12.99). It was a special, but would do well on the everyday menu.

We were most excited about duck confit tacos ($6.49 or $12.59) — having heard much about the shredded duck, slowly cooked in its own fat and topped with roasted vegetables and a chipotle crema. While satisfying, I’ll complete my tour of the taco menu by sampling the achiote-marinated chicken ($5.69 or $11.29), turkey chorizo ($5.59 or $10.99) and griddled vegetable ($5.59 or 10.99) options before returning to the duck.

À la carte pricing is the name of the game here. We were charged an extra 99 cents for a small ramekin of salsa, which seems chintzy at a taqueria. A cup of mole for dipping cost an additional $2.49.

To complement the tacos, imbibe one of the 100 percent agave tequilas that are available. T27 is one of the few places in Utah to offer all three locally owned Vida Tequila selections (blanco $9.50, resposado $10.50 and anejo $11.50) as well as a broad selection of other quality tequilas designed for sipping or upping the value of your margarita. Watch your tab, though. The T27 margarita is just $6.50, but premium margaritas start at $3 per and go up depending on your choice of tequila. Liqueur flavors such as Clear Creek raspberry or Pama pomegranate can be added for an additional $2.

If it’s street food you desire, chose from a selection of local beers. T27 claims to be the only place to serve jalapeño cream ale beer ($4.50). No one at the table loved it, but the burn down the throat was a unique experience and it’s the sort of item that will have its fans. Personally, I’ll stick with the T27 mojito ($7), tasty T27 Tea ($8) or the stellar tequila selection instead.

As you sip, dive into the light, salty and crunchy tortilla chips made in-house and served with guacamole ($5.49-$10.79), queso fundido ($7.49) or salsas ($3.99). Unfortunately, the chips are so light that the queso fundido — a bowl of melted Oaxaca and Chihuahua cheeses kept warm by a tea light—made dipping difficult and no serving spoon was provided. You can get the fundido topped with sautéed wild mushrooms for an additional $2.49.

We also tried the traditional guacamole ($5.49 small/$10.49 large) as a baseline measure for other selections. We found the guacamole of the day ($6.49) offered no discernible flavors beyond the traditional jalapeño, cilantro and lime; and the mango guacamole ($5.99) didn’t have the fruity tang I expected.

Unexpected, and highly recommended by our server, was the excellent butter lettuce salad ($3.99 small/$7.89 large) topped with pears, pumpkin seeds and the most amazing green chile Gorgonzola dressing. The bleu cheese and the spicy chile delivered an incredible punch on top of simple, crisp butter lettuce. The Caesar dressing also impressed. If they bottled either of these, I’d buy them.

T27 also offers four mole entrées — rojo, verde, Oaxacan or amarillo served with beef ($13.49), chicken ($11.49), pork ($12.49) or grilled portobello ($10.49). Each comes with a choice of two sides and tortillas. For the price, the mole portion seemed rather small, but the juicy beef smothered in rojo was excellent. Sides of three-pepper cilantro rice, ancho-spiked black beans, cumin lentils or pinto beans (all $1.99 à la carte) were filling but forgettable.

If you’ve still got room for dessert, there are flan ($4.99), chocolate tres leches ($4.99) and the T27 doughnuts ($4.99), which are rolled in Mexican chocolate sugar and drizzled with melted chocolate. Our doughnuts arrived unevenly cooked — one was mostly raw while the other perfectly fried. A better option might be to pay for dinner and then take your receipt next door to the Coffee Bar, where you’ll get 20 percent off a coffee drink.

In short, Taqueria 27 offers Salt Lake City diners a welcome departure from the typical taco fare — highlighting gourmet ingredients and premium tequila drinks.

food@sltrib.com

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Taqueria 27

Food • HHhj

Mood • HHhj

Service • HH

Noise • bb

A modern taqueria serving high-end tacos, moles, salads and selection of premium tequilas.

Location • 1615 S. Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City; 385-259-0712

Online • www.taqueria27.com

Hours • Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday brunch in the Coffee Bar only, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Children’s menu • Yes

Prices • $-$$

Liquor • Yes

Corkage • $7

Reservations • No

Takeout • Yes

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • Yes

On-site parking • Yes

Credit cards • All major