I'd been lurking over a paper menu at the counter of Evo Taco, 12637 Westheimer, Suite 140, when the guy at the register politely asked me, "Do you like chicken-fried steak?"
I do. I also like the thought of comfort food after a day like Monday, day of the Las Vegas massacre and also of Tom Petty's passing. I'd made the drive to Evo Taco in West Oaks from my office in Midtown, with queso on my mind. It was a good 36-minute haul down 59 to Westpark to a stretch of gated community called Shadow Lake, a good place for a headless horseman to appear as one crosses the bridge over the retention ditch in a Toyota Tacoma. I'd blasted Petty's greatest hits. The gloomy skies had unleashed their fury the whole way. I'd made a left at the baroque statues lining a check-cashing strip mall on the corner of Westheimer and Dairy Ashford. Circled back at the first chance to make a U-turn and arrived at my destination. Houston's newest fusion taco spot, which you probably haven't heard about yet.
Evo is short for evolution, as in the evolution of, you know, tacos. The menu here is also half-composed of flatbreads, but I skipped over that portion and just went straight for the evolution and/or revolution.
One Ranch Hand (chicken fried steak), New Orleans BBQ Shrimp and chickpea fritter-based Vegetarian taco later, along with chips and queso and a drink, and I was signing a screen for $26 including tip. Not too outrageous considering the fast casual shakedown happening at competing eateries around town.
"Our tortillas are made with pork; is that okay?"
I smiled. Naturally that was better than okay.
The queso was already being delivered as I poured my iced tea and grabbed a seat. I sat and watched the parking lot as one does in Houston. Inside, there's nothing really kitschy or pretentious about the place. It's located in a former Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen location. It's not like Torchy's or Tacodeli or even Fusion Taco. There isn't a projected cool factor — it's not from Austin, nor is it located in a hip area, per se, nor is the inside staffed by millennials or anyone with tattoos or the potential to blast the Sirius Lithium station during operational hours — but what it lacks in showiness, it certainly makes up for in friendliness and potential to serve its neighborhood. That is to say, everyday people, who might also be seeking comfort in the form of chicken-fried steak as served in taco form, will be well-served here.
This is also an eatery that's only been operational a month, the actual opening delayed by Harvey.
"It's cool, though," my server told me. "We're kind of coming up as the neighborhood is coming back, you know?"
There are still many houses in this area with debris piles stacked in front of them, and when dining here, you do get the feeling that many neighborhood residents are scoping the place out for the first time. There were a couple of guys at the bar, a woman finishing up her lunch. A two top wandered in after I was already downing chips and queso — a large serving with thick chips that gets the job done fine. Another two top wandered in after that. Both of those parties, like me, studied the menu for minutes on end, a sure sign it was their first time in.
The menu is composed mostly of crazy tacos, BLT and banana split and banh mi versions. The New Orleans barbecue shrimp taco is salty and spicy, but the sauce itself lacked the sweet, buttery appeal of the real deal, and given the heat, they might benefit from calling this a Cajun shrimp taco instead; a chickpea fritter taco, which can come fully vegetarian (except I ordered mine on the lardy tortilla), is a decent bite and easy to eat considering it's doused in yogurt sauce. It's not overstuffed, but perfectly portable without any spillage.
The chicken-fried steak taco, though. That is the one. A large, chicken-tender-size serving of breaded and fried steak sits over a smear of ranch dressing and mashed potato, topped with white cheddar and onion. The tortilla, both thin and brawny, is the perfect sidekick, encasing the hulking beast as it makes its way toward meeting its doom. The sage part of the promised sage cream gravy was a bit lost on me, but I'd happily down another just to check if that's so. If I still had room for it, anyway, and maybe I will at Tacolandia in two weeks, where Evo will be one of the vendors.
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For those who live in the area, this new spot is worth a try for creative and traditional tacos — the fajita is sourced from Ruffino Meats in Bryan — along with cocktails and maybe even a dinner al fresco with shared snacks such as flatbreads and fries. Drink enough and you won't even mind the McDonald's parking lot next door. I will certainly be back to try the flatbreads and get another look of those nearby strip-mall statues. I don't know why, but even on a rainy day, something about it just perks me right up.
Evo Taco, 12637 Westheimer, Suite 140