Midtown Vacation

The atmosphere at Taco Bron takes your mind south of the border

The midtown Taco Bron sits right on the busy, noisy corner of Fort Lowell Road and First Avenue. Yet as you sit on the lovely little patio out front, you barely notice any of the traffic whizzing by. Instead, after just a few moments, all that seems to disappear. You might even think you're vacationing down Mexico way.

Granted, there isn't that salty aroma you'll find in Rocky Point, but on the night we joined our good friends Pam and Joe Pierce on the patio at the midtown Taco Bron, we got the feeling that the beach was just blocks away. Mexican tunes were playing; tall tropical plants were all around; tables were full with diners or folks who were there just to have a good time; and the conversation was easy and warm (as it always is with these friends).

The patio is beautiful, but there is also a small indoor dining room, which is brightly decorated with a hand painted mural of a Mexican village lining one wall. Our table outside also featured a pretty hand-painted design.

Instead of the traditional chips and salsa found just about everywhere else, Taco Bron serves chips with the house bean dip: refried beans jazzed up a bit. The texture is smooth and perfect for dipping. We asked for salsa and were given both the pico de gallo and a dark, roasted version.

We kicked off our meal with two appetizers: the caramelito platter ($6.25), with chicken, and the Nacho Bron ($6.75), opting for the Angus beef carne asada over chicken or pork. We also had a round of Tecates, which were a real ganga at two for the price of one ($3.50). We opted out of the margaritas that Taco Bron boasts about, but they looked tempting and tasty as the servers placed them in front of other customers. If neither of these libations are your thing, there are also a half-dozen mixed drinks to choose from, although there is no formal bar.

When the sweet young server plopped the food in front of us, our jaws dropped. The caramelitos were superb with toasted outsides and gooey, cheesy insides. There were one apiece, just enough for a light start. But the Nachos Bron was huge! A large (I mean large) stack of warm tortilla chips were piled high with more of that tasty bean dip, oodles of jalapeno peppers, melted cheese, pico de gallo salsa and plenty of tender, perfectly grilled carne asada. A phallic jalapeno pepper was strategically plopped on top (that got quite a few laughs from the guys). I know it's been said before, but this appetizer was a meal in itself ... for three or four people. It was as good as it looked, and after all of us ate our fair share, we both packed some to take home.

We figured the best way to get a full taste of all the food was to each order one of the combo plates. Joe ordered the Numero Uno--three soft tacos with your choice of meats. Joe went with the chicken ($6.45). Pammy ordered the Numero Cuatro--a large cheese quesadilla with two soft tacos, in this case filled with seasoned pork ($6.45). John went with a Numero Tres--one caramelo and two soft tacos, choosing carne asada for his meat filling ($6.95). I chose Numero Cinco--one fish taco, one shrimp taco ("gobernador": shrimp and cheese fried in butter) and one shrimp caramelo ($7.95). All plates come with refried beans and the house specialty, cilantro rice.

There was a little disagreement about the beans. I felt they were merely passable, but the others at the table all used "above average" to describe them. The cilantro rice was an interesting twist, but it lacked flavor. I was expecting more punch, more of that bright cilantro flavor. I would never have guessed cilantro was the seasoning used.

Joe chowed down on his soft tacos. The chicken inside was tender, juicy and lightly seasoned. Pam enjoyed her tacos but felt the meat was only OK, and I'd have to agree. She didn't touch her gigantic quesadillas, but not from lack of taste, more from just being fully satisfied. John's carne asada tacos and caramelo were perhaps the best of the three. Both the soft tacos and the caramelo were packed with more of that tender, well-grilled beef.

I truly enjoyed my shrimp caramelo, and the small, crispy shrimp taco was mucho bueno (next time I go, I'm going to order three--maybe more--of them). The tortilla was buttery crisp and really increased the flavor of the shrimp. Oddly, my fish taco was pretty bland. This was a soft taco with several small pieces of breaded fish inside. The breading could have used more seasoning. A spicy mayo mixture, as found on fish tacos elsewhere, might have helped.

We were all way too full to attempt a dessert, but on my next visit, I might try the amaretto flan or perhaps the choc flan, which is described as half German chocolate cake, half flan.

By the time you read this article, things over at Taco Bron may have changed a bit. That was the word from the guy who looked like the manager on our Friday night visit. When pressed for further info, he said there were going to be additions and certain items were going to be removed from the menu (it's my guess prices might change a little too, but that's just a guess).

I wouldn't let a little thing like a menu changes keep you away from this friendly neighborhood restaurant. Escaping to a "tropical paradise" is something all of us Tucsonans can use during the hot summer.

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