Yes, Paul West is a little eccentric. But looking around his newly opened restaurant, Greatfull Taco, on a sunny Saturday morning, it was evident that any eccentricities were clearly and charmingly manifested in the bright colors, roller-coaster menu and intriguing deep cuts playing from vinyl records on an LP near the counter.
And as I looked around, I started to get a little nervous. Every part of the restaurant screamed "perfect" to me. Too perfect. Flat-screen TVs hung thick from the walls; high-end speakers were installed in the patio's squat stone columns; the dining room's design looked sleekly and professionally done. As if all of the energy and money had been devoted to the decor and ambiance instead of the food.
Over a table of tacos 10 minutes later, that question had been quickly put to rest. These were excellent Texas-style tacos. Greatfull Taco only really had to do one thing right past the high-energy interior -- its much self-touted tacos -- and it's already doing that and more in just the few shorts weeks since it's been open.
The Viola Lee ($2.50), one of a handful of interesting vegetarian options on the menu (fried eggplant and artichoke with poblano mayo is another), came with fried green tomatoes and serrano mayonnaise under a light slaw of shredded carrots. The battered tomatoes were every bit as tart and tangy as I'd hoped, making a for standout summer taco -- the kicky serrano mayo didn't hurt, either.
And I was surprised by just how much I liked the Red Rooster Jerk ($2.95), which I ordered seemingly at random -- the large menu was a lot to take in at first glance, with 16 regular tacos to choose from. But the crunchy jicama and jalapeño slaw that topped a slightly spicy breast of jerk chicken was unexpectedly delicious, as I can normally take or leave jerk seasoning. The crunchy slaw and hopped-up mango-habanero salso took that chicken to a whole different, delicious place.
My boyfriend didn't expect much from his $1.99 breakfast tacos, either, but quickly gobbled down his two double-egg, cheese and potato tacos despite how heavy and huge they were. The tacos aren't only cheap and good, though; they're available all day long from 7 a.m. opening to 3 p.m. closing time.
Right now, I'm waiting for Greatfull Taco to extend its hours to 8 p.m., because I think dinner is where this place will stand out as an inexpensive neighborhood option that offers its patrons truly good food in a wonderful setting. I can picture many a happy night on its patio over one of the craft beers on its menu (or a glass of wine) and a few assorted tacos. And I can picture eating that Viola Lee many times in the future.
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On his first go-round, I really thought Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio had gotten it right here with Sabetta (the restaurant located here just prior to Greatfull Taco; Palazzo-Giorgio was/is chef at both). And I really think that he has once again with Greatfull Taco -- I'm just hoping the inexpensive, fast-casual concept done here is more appealing to the surrounding area. Because if this place doesn't become a treasured neighborhood gem in the next few years or so, I just might hang up this whole fortune-food-teller hat once and for all.