By Clare Myers
For college students who are new to the 21-and-up scene, there are two words that will immediately catch your attention: happy hour. It is an unbeatable combination: getting the night started early and getting those drinks at a discount. And in this part of town, drinks with a Mexican flair are king. As a friend of mine recently wondered aloud, “Are there any other drinks besides margaritas at happy hour?”
Well, yes, there are, but the fact remains that the cocktail selection at happy hours around here are dominated by margaritas, with the occasional mojito thrown in for good measure. And that is not a bad thing.
One University of Dallas happy hour hotspot, Taco Diner, is just a quick jaunt from campus. Its claim to fame is the “Mambo Taxi,” a frozen white sangria cocktail with a margarita swirl that is $5 on Thursdays through Saturdays until 11 p.m. On a recent Friday night, Taco Diner was busy but not packed, so our group of five was seated immediately. The ambience of the place is one of its finer points; a sleek layout on the inside contrasts with a breezy outdoor patio where a DJ spins on the weekends. The crowd was more older men and women than college students, but nonetheless it had a professional vibe.
The Mambo Taxi lives up to the hype. It is a sweet drink with a tequila kick, making it much more balanced than the average margarita. A word to the wise, though: the delicious slushy concoction is all too easy to finish too quickly.
As the self-appointed University News salsa expert, I tend to judge any Mexican restaurant by its chip-and-dip game. That may not be fair, but first impressions matter. At Taco Diner, the complementary chips come with both a standard table salsa and a salsa verde. While the tomatillo salsa was noticeably better than the salsa roja, both were a frustratingly smooth, nearly pureed texture. Had they been chunkier, I might have been able to use the salsa to mask the blandness of the tortilla chips. The “Queso Blanco” ($4) was slightly better, according to the table consensus. Two strong Mambos in, I was still unimpressed. The main course did not do much to save Taco Diner from my chips and salsa blacklist. When our food was brought to the table, my order, the “‘TD’ Chicken Fajita Salad” ($10), was incorrect and another plate had to be brought out several minutes later. The salad itself was unremarkable, though the chili-lime vinaigrette added some much-needed tang. My friends ordered a variety of tacos ($6 for 2 with rice, $10 for four with rice). One friend loved the spiciness of the “BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos,” and another deemed the “Fish Tacos,” pan-seared tilapia with a citrus marinade, to be fairly good. While the table approved overall of the food, I found it of solid quality but nothing more.
As for the service, it was generally good, but instead of one server, we were served by a number of waiters and waitresses who at times apparently did not communicate with each other. This did not cause any major problems, but it did cause a few moments of confusion.
After a few experiences with Taco Diner, I am still not an enthusiastic fan of the place. With an abundance of great Tex-Mex and Mexican food within easy distance of UD, I would forego dinner there in favor of trying another restaurant. However, as a place to sit down for a Mambo or two with friends, Taco Diner is still a good option.
Nearest DART station: North Lake College Station
Distance from UD: 4.9 miles
How to get there from UD: Take the Orange Line towards DFW Airport station for two stops (Irving Convention Center). Take the 501 bus towards Downtown Irving/Heritage Crossing Station for 11 stops (about 10 minutes). Get off at Corporate @ Executive and turn left onto MacArthur Boulevard. Follow MacArthur Boulevard for 0.4 miles.