Bright colors greet you at Velvet Taco's entrance.
The Velvet Taco logo is stamped on the building's exterior.
Dine al fresco on Velvet Taco's colorful outdoor patio.
From left: slow roasted brisket taco, shrimp and grits taco, crisp tikka chicken taco, ahi poke taco
Crisp tots and local egg
I’ve been to Velvet Taco three times since its recent opening, and each visit has had one thing in common: long lines. Let’s be honest, lines are usually indicative of one of two things — overly hyped food or really good food. In my opinion, Velvet Taco has the latter. The award-winning concept from Dallas-based Fork It Over Restaurants offers a worldly menu divided into six sections — chick (chicken), veg (veggie), pork, beef, fish and egg. And while the place offers nothing but tacos, a broad flavor profile is showcased.
I wish I could tell you that I tried a taco from each section on each visit, but my stomach is only so big. However, I did manage to taste (or, should I say, devour) three tacos, starting with the crisp chicken tikka version. Modeled after the Indian dish chicken tikka masala, the taco combines crisp chicken covered in a spicy pepper sauce with buttered cilantro basmati rice, raita crema and Thai basil in a flour tortilla. This was definitely my favorite of the three. The chicken was moist, and the flavor of the tikka masala was better than what I’ve tasted in some Indian restaurants. The spice was just right for my palate, but if you really like heat you may find the pepper sauce a bit mild. The rice was cooked very well, and the crema and Thai basil elevated the flavor; all of the elements married well.
Next, I tried the ahi poke taco. Raw fish is one of my favorite things to eat, but I was a bit skeptical about trying this taco. I recently suffered a case of food poisoning picked up from a sushi restaurant, and let’s be honest, a taco joint doesn’t exactly scream fresh, raw fish. But I just couldn’t resist. (To be fair, it is cooked, poke-style.) The poke was a mix of ahi tuna, ginger soy vinaigrette, avocado, seaweed salad, macadamia nuts, pickled fresnos, sesame seeds, Himalayan sea salt and radish sprouts, all served in a lettuce wrap. Fresh and light, it tasted like a sushi roll in taco form. The lettuce wrap fell apart after a while, so I ate it more like a salad than a taco, but the flavors were good.
The slow-roasted brisket taco has, according to a Velvet Taco spokesperson, been the biggest seller at the Houston location thus far, so I couldn’t pass it up. The tortilla is crusted in Comté cheese before being filled with barbacoa-style brisket, red chile mayo, avocado relish, queso blanco and micro cilantro. Overall, the taco had good flavor, but the brisket was a bit dry. I enjoyed the cheese-crusted tortilla the most.
I paired the tacos with a side of crisp tots (a staple of Velvet Taco) and a frozen margarita. The tots are topped with a fried egg, herbed goat cheese, smoked cheddar, avocado crema and bacon. Anything covered in cheese and bacon and topped with a fried egg is bound to be delicious, right? Through all of the rich ingredients, however, the standout for me was the goat cheese. It really elevated the dish to a place I didn’t think tater tots could go. But the biggest plus is that the tater tots weren’t at all greasy. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve had a non-greasy tater tot, so a special thanks goes out to whoever made these. As for the margarita, it was delicious and strong.
One thing I will be going back for is the whole rotisserie bird, slow roasted and served with two sides of elote-style corn, six house-made corn tortillas, roasted corn pico de gallo and hot sauce — all for $20. The best part? You don’t have to deal with those pesky lines. Just head to Velvet Taco’s back door with $20, and you can grab your bird without the wait. Velvet Taco, 4819 Washington Ave., Houston, TX 77007.