Not Your Typical TacosMay 01, 2021 ● By Lisa Ferguson
In the spirit of full disclosure, here’s a little secret: I have what some call a dark side. At first glance, you probably wouldn’t guess that I’m an unabashed fan of heavy metal music - the louder, the better. And, in my opinion, anything emblazoned with the image of a skull – especially one with a menacing grin – is automatically cool.
With those tidbits divulged, it’ll likely come as no surprise to learn that I felt right at home on a recent weeknight at ChÍdo Taco Lounge, on Lebanon Road near the Dallas North Tollway, in Frisco. (Chido is an adjective commonly used in Mexican culture to describe something that is cool or nice). The good vibes began quite literally at the large wooden front doors of the recently opened eatery, which are adorned with a pair of shiny brass handles in the shape of a lumbar spinal column, each topped by a small smiling skull that gleamed in the late afternoon sun.
Inside, a screen divides the bar area from the route to the host stand, which is located near the center of the restaurant. Nearby, a set of glass doors leads to the outdoor patio, where a few diners were enjoying the pleasant weather along with their meals. My reservation was quickly located by a hostess who, like the other ChÍdo staffers, wore a black t-shirt printed with a cartoon-esque, baseball cap-wearing skull. She led me to a small table where I slid into the dark-wooden bench seating along the wall and awaited the arrival of a coworker who would join me for an early dinner. For a short while, I was the only person seated in the dining room, and even the stools at the bar were empty, but the placed filled quickly as early evening approached.
Our server, Brooke, appeared promptly with a pair of menus, followed by cloth napkin-wrapped silverware and glasses of water. She was soon followed by another wait staffer who presented the drink menu and informed that happy hour was underway. ChÍdo Taco Lounge boasts a sizable selection of specialty cocktails as well as wine and beer. Under the barrel-aged category, a sampling of Old Fashioneds is listed.
When it comes to boozy beverages, my tastes are rather pedestrian: a ChÍdo frozen margarita would suit me just fine. The small, frosty glass was filled with a thick, citrusy slush topped with a thin orange slice. My first mistake was judging this bad boy by its diminutive size: lo and behold, it packed a powerful tequila punch. My coworker arrived and ordered a strawberry frozen margarita. To our surprise, she was served a traditional margarita into which a pint-sized strawberry ice pop – wooden stick and all – had been plunged. It was almost too adorable to drink … almost.
The happy hour offerings also included a few selections from ChÍdo’s regular appetizer menu. Ravenous following a busy workday, we ordered the Salsa Sampler and Queso Gringo with chorizo sausage crumbles, which were served with a generous side of tortilla chips. The former features a trio of sauces – Salsa Mesa, Salsa Fresca and Salsa Verde – that were pleasantly spicy but not overly so. The green Salsa Verde was the hands-down winner of the three. Meanwhile, the thick, warm queso was yummy and would have been perfectly tasty even without the addition of the sausage.
Soon after the appetizers arrived, Brooke returned to the table to take our entree orders. I inquired about her favorite menu items, and she recommended the Carne Asada as well as several of ChÍdo’s inventive tacos, which are served ala carte. I settled on the Thai Curry Taco and Chili Relleno Taco, both of which are meatless, with Green Rice and Charro Black Beans on the side. My coworker went with the Jerk Chicken Taco and Steak Taco, a Grilled Avocado and ChÍdo Fries.
With our entrées ordered, we got back to nibbling on the appetizers. Between bites, we also digested the restaurant’s industrial-inspired interior design elements, including its painted concrete floor; an electric-blue exposed ventilation pipe that snakes along the ceiling; and caged Edison pendant lights hanging over a prep area. ChÍdo’s slate gray walls are dotted with an eclectic array of art. One piece features the word “besame” (Spanish for “kiss me”) sculpted in neon light. I thoroughly enjoyed my view of – what else? – a painting of a sunglasses-wearing white skull sprayed graffiti style with neon colors. Throughout our meal, the wait staff buzzed in and out of the centrally-situated kitchen and a diverse array of bluesy-rock tunes echoed throughout the space.
In no time, our entrees and sides arrived. As expected, the flour tortilla-wrapped Thai Curry Taco featured a blend of yellow curry, chard, sweet potato, tomato, pickled Fresno chili and Green Rice. While big on flavor, the taco’s overall texture was a bit soft for my liking. I was at first flummoxed by the taste and texture of the small, deep-fried nuggets arranged atop the Chili Relleno Taco. After revisiting the menu, I learned they were bits of fried avocado. A mélange of Anaheim pepper, corn, tomato and zucchini sprinkled with cotija cheese and wrapped in a corn tortilla, this tasty taco was my favorite of the two I ordered. Meanwhile, the sizable side of Green Rice, while verdant-looking and fresh-tasting, seemed a bit overcooked. Served in a small, pot-like bowl, the Charro Black Beans swam in a slightly spicy sauce. Their hearty, meaty flavor was a welcome contrast to the vegetable-laden tacos.
The straightforward simplicity of the Steak Taco made it a standout. Its corn tortilla was filled with super-tender and oh-so-tasty wagyu skirt steak and sweet, chewy, caramelized onions. Downright delicious is the only way to describe this taco. Interestingly, the juicy Jerk Chicken Taco, wrapped in a flour tortilla and accented with “jerk salsa,” wasn’t quite as spicy as one might assume it would be. That said, the Caribbean-inspired flavors were up front, thanks to the pineapple pico de gallo, and the taco was quite aromatic and tasty overall. Although the Grilled Avocado featured lovely char marks and was artfully presented on greens, we were blown away by the overflowing side of ChÍdo Fries. Doused in a salty, citrusy spice blend and packing a ton of puckery flavor, we simply could not get enough of these crispy shoestring fries, which were themselves worth the price of admission.
We opted to give the dessert option, Tres Leches Bread Pudding, a try. A generous slice of this warm, soft, cinnamon-forward pudding, lightly bathed in caramel sauce, is certainly large enough for two to share, and would be satisfying all on its own. That it is served alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream, also drizzled with caramel, puts it over the top in the best way. The contrast of the warm pudding and cold ice cream made for an unforgettable end to the meal.
Service throughout dinner was top notch and speedy. Brooke visited our table frequently to ask whether we were enjoying our meal. Other staffers made sure our water glasses were never empty and were quick to clear our plates when we were through.
While there are plenty of places that can – and do – claim tacos as their specialty, ChÍdo Taco Lounge certainly goes to great lengths to separate itself from the pack. From its innovative flavor profiles and edgy décor to its truly inspired food and drinks, this “cool” place is destined to become a local hotspot.
Frisco STYLE Magazine dining reviews are not scheduled with or paid for by the featured restaurant. All reviews are completed for the purpose of helping readers learn about and enjoy local dining options.
Lisa Ferguson is managing editor of Frisco STYLE Magazine.