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Grand Opening Party at Torchy's Tacos

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As of 7 a.m. today, Houston officially had a branch of Torchy's Tacos, the Austin-based chain of eateries known for their creative taco fillings (e.g., fried avocado) and tongue-burning Diablo Hot Sauce.

But yesterday, some lucky Torchy's fans, including yours truly, got to attend the private grand opening. Doors opened at 6 p.m., and two hours later, the building was throbbing with zealous Torchy's fans and happy-go-lucky servers whizzing by with baskets of stuffed tortillas. It was marvelous taco mayhem, and I would have liked to stay all night. But that probably would have gotten weird at some point.

Although I didn't quite eat my weight in tacos, I sure came close. I started with the "Dirty Sanchez," a flour tortilla layered with scrambled eggs, guacamole, carrots, shredded cheese, and a whole fried poblano chile. The pepper and avocado added some depth to the eggs, and the carrots, some pleasant crunchiness. A few drizzles of the rich poblano sauce (a ranch-esque pepper dip that strongly resembles what you get at Chuy's), and I had quite a filling taco. But I didn't stop there.

The "Brush Fire" was a cornucopia of entirely different tastes: Jamaican jerk chicken, mango, cilantro, sour cream, and grilled jalapenos. It also came with Diablo Sauce, but the wuss in me knew better than to add it to my already smokin'-hot taco. The cream gave me some reprieve from the spice, and the mango added a citrusy tartness that complemented the chicken well.

I never met a battered fruit or vegetable I didn't like, so it was no surprise that I gobbled down the "Fried Avocado" taco (refried beans, pico de gallo, cheddar cheese, and lettuce). I've since nicknamed it the "avotaco" (trademark pending) and next time I plan to order two because they're vegetarian and therefore definitely healthful. Definitely.

And still I kept eating. Each month Torchy's offers a special taco only available for 30 days (in other words, limited edition). December's variety was the "Naughty Santa," a merry combination of grilled shrimp, avocado, chorizo, jack cheese, and pickled onions. While I felt rather meh about the sausage, which came in the form of dessicated little chunks, I was a much bigger fan of the tender shrimp marinated in garlic and pepper and the pungent cheese. The "Crossroads" made better use of red meat. The smoked beef brisket was juicy and paired perfectly with the grilled onions and jalapenos. Avocado and tomatillo sauce added additional flavor and creaminess.

One thing that has always irked me about ordering multiple tacos, especially in takeout form, is that differentiating them requires removing their insulating foil and poking through the contents of the tortilla. And nothing is less appealing for your dining companion than prodding a taco for three minutes only to announce, "This one's yours." Torchy's has cleverly eliminated that problem via adorable labels.

The morning after my Torchy's binge, I was still full and, oddly, also in the mood for more tacos. Fortunately, Torchy's offers more than 15 varieties, so I have a ways to go before maxing out my menu choices.


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