Look! Up in the sky!! Is it Cupid? Or is it Torchy? Either way, we're pretty sure it's love... based on the size of the crowd that had already gathered (and wrapped around the building) when we arrived for the soft opening tonight at Torchy's Tacos in the Cochran's Crossing Shopping Center here in The Woodlands.
In this first look, we'll go easy on Torchy's Tacos. After all, Torchy's doesn't officially open until tomorrow, and having a crowd that wraps around the entire building before you even begin your soft opening service can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned restaurateur. But we enjoyed our evening and the polite conversation with David, the "Head Mixologist" we spoke with at the bar.
Trying to save enough room to sample a wide variety of tacos, we stuck with the absolute basic of chips and queso. Torchy's Green Chili Queso is delightful; none of that runny yellow "cheese" that so many "Authentic" Mexican restaurants try to pass off as queso. Torchy's queso has a thick and varied flavor to it, letting you pick up on the subtle nuances of the queso fresco, cilantro and Torchy's signature Diablo hot sauce. ($5.25)
We opted for this one on a corn tortilla, and were somewhat suprised to discover the grilled jalapeno sausage was milder than one might expect, given the spicyness of nearly everything else we tried. The Republican comes topped with shredded cheese, pico de gallo, and served with poblano sauce on the side ($3.25).
Also in our basket was the Brushfire ($3.75); every bit as spicy as the name implies. Served on a soft, fresh flour tortilla, the Jamaican Jerk chicken, grilled jalapenos, and Diablo hot sauce could barely be tamed by the diced mango and sprinkling of cilantro.
You always need to try the basics, so I ordered a Chicken Fajita ($3.50) and a Beef Fajita ($3.75), both on corn tortillas. I'm a little sad that Torchy's doesn't make their own tortillas in-house, which, in my opinion, tend to be the best kind of corn tortillas; thick and "meaty" in their consistancy. To make up for it, though, Torchy's does double up on their corn tortillas, which can at least significantly cut down on the mess factor. The chicken was tender and marinated grilled breast, and was served with grilled onions and peppers, cheese and pico de gallo. Likewise, the Beef Fajita taco was well-marinated and grilled skirt steak, also served with onions and peppers, and topped off with shredded cheese and pico de gallo.
I loved the queso, and would go as far as to say I think it's safe to put it up there with Chuy's, as far as that goes. The guacamole at Torchy's was a bit on the mild side, but not bad; definitely fresh chopped avocado. Speaking of fresh - again, despite what was probably an incredibly unusually large crowd, everything we sampled looked and tasted fresh.
We even tried a few of their signature mixed drinks. Torchy's house margarita was really good with a flavor that was not mostly sweet and sour mix heavy. I had their "Skinny 100" margarita, as well as their "Torchy's Tini." Even with dozens of patrons crowding the bar, it's refreshing to see the bartenders using fresh juices and taking care to mix their drinks without slowing their service down.
So we'll definitely be back. Word on the street a while back was that Texas Taco Company (soon to be [or now is] Mighty Taco Company in Magnolia was attempting to copy Torchy's. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - but to be honest, we think we might stick with the original. We didn't want to hold up the line, and we could only eat so much in one sitting anyway, so we look forward to trying such signature favorites as The Trailer Park - fried chicken, green chilies, lettuce, pico de gallo and cheese on a flour tortilla (which we'll likely get it "trashy" and take off the lettuce & add queso); or the Crossroads - smoked beef brisket with grilled onions, jalapenos, jack cheese and a slice of avocado.
In closing, we'd like to point out our appreciation for the simple yet effective method in which gluten-free options are a part of the menu as well. We did give each of the Love Puppies a try, and found the gluten-free double-down chocolate to be every bit as tasty as the original. Our hats are off to the peanut butter brownie bites, though.
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