The slightly sweet, salty, sesame-marinated beef in the Kogi taco is drizzled with "kimche" aioli and topped with a generous amount of napa slaw and toasted sesame seeds. We think they meant kimchi, judging by the Korean bulgogi-inspired flavors oozing from this kick-ass taco.
Nearly six-month-old Liberty Taco opened at 4703 Richmond, where the former Nit Noi used to reside, just inside the Loop near the Galleria. The dining room inside the red-, white- and blue-clad eatery seemed a bit quiet at dinnertime on a week night, but the to-go and pick-up orders kept the meat sizzling behind the kitchen doors.
The space is clean, bright and casually decorated with fun, clever, caricature-like drawings of ingredients, food and symbols of freedom on simple framed white-boards. High-top tables line the front and side windows, with four- and six-tops scattered throughout the dining area, enough for 80 diners and ten more seats on the patio.
At first glance, the menu is comparable to the creative tacos you might find at Fusion or Torchy's, but judging from reviews on Yelp, Liberty just may have raised the taco bar in Houston. Along with tacos, the restaurant offers quesadillas, breakfast tacos, salad bowls, a couple of vegetarian-friendly options and catering. Prices are legit, with tacos ranging from $3.75 to $4.50.
Traditional tacos, like the barbacoa, carnitas and fajita beef, certainly make an appearance, but unique, made-to-order items like the Caribbean chicken, with spicy jerk marinated chicken topped with mango, sour cream and cilantro, and the Thai basil, with sweet and spicy basil-marinated chicken topped with red cabbage and rooster (Sriracha) crema, are what drops the flavor bomb.
The Tequila Shrimp at $4.25 was served on a soft, lightly crisped flour tortilla, nestled on a bed of serrano ranch slaw. The taco was finished with grilled jalapeños, fresh mango, sour cream, cilantro and serrano sauce. It was superb just the way it arrived, but after we added a drop of the habanero house hot sauce, it quite possibly became the perfect bite. (Note to Liberty: We hope to see you compete at Tacolandia this year!)
Liberty offers three house-made sauces, a mild roja (red sauce), a medium tomatillo (green sauce) and the aforementioned gift-from-the-spice-gods habanero hot (a creamy orange sauce).
The chips and queso were also a notable appetizer. An overflowing basket of corn tortilla chips accompanied a bowl of deep-orange cheese, topped with chopped cilantro and queso fresco. The queso was full of flavor, peppery, bold and bright, and never seemed to settle or clump.
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Liberty is currently waiting for its liquor license to be approved, but for now offers BYOB. An awesome Stubborn Soda tap machine is available for delicious off-the-wall flavors like Pineapple Cream Soda and Orange Hibiscus.
Liberty proudly promotes the "freedom to eat" on its walls and website. You'll want to come back again and again to practice that freedom: the freedom to eat all the tacos at Liberty.
Operating hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Liberty Taco, libertytaco.com
4703 Richmond, 713-239-0881