TacoLu is a fun and busy taco joint that has established a pretty amazing cult following in Jacksonville Beach. They started in a tiny little building on Beach Blvd where there was never enough parking and pretty much always a wait. They moved on to the old Homestead building (most recently Copper Top) where no restaurant has been successful in more than a decade. I’m not going to lie, it made me nervous when I saw TacoLu took over that old haunted (allegedly) building. The good and bad news is that even with the enormous space, TacoLu still doesn’t have enough parking and there is always a wait. Alright, I’m exaggerating slightly. They now have complimentary valet parking so you don’t have to worry about where to park your vehicle, and they have a great system to notify you when your table is ready by texting you. These guys should be the national model for how to build a great local restaurant. They’ve found unique ways to engage the community, they cover the place in fantastic unique artwork, and they put out great food consistently.
We stopped by TacoLu shortly before 6pm on a Tuesday and we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table. We were seated outside on the patio with the warmth of gas heaters. It was a chilly evening and we would have had to wait longer for an inside table, but we were very comfortable once the heaters were turned on.
Food: We started with queso ($6.25) and added chorizo to it ($1.50). The way TacoLu does this particular variation of queso/chorizo is to put chorizo in a dish and cover it with queso. It was literally melted cheese without much spice or seasoning of any kind. I wouldn’t order it by itself but the chorizo was good and added a lot of flavor plus a tiny bit of kick to it. It went well with the queso. While we thought the queso with chorizo was good, we’ve had the queso fundido in the past and we’d suggest going with that appetizer as opposed to the cheese dip. The queso fundido is really well done.
I wanted an adult beverage, so I asked our waiter to choose between a regular/house margarita and the Sangria margarita. He confidently recommended the Sangria Margarita. It was pretty and purple. It just wasn’t that good. It was really just a strong, indiscriminate drink. If I didn’t know it was supposed to be a Sangria Margarita I wouldn’t have been able to identify it. I would just have called it a subpar purple drink. Next time I’ll either stick to a regular margarita. Those are pretty awesome at TacoLu.
My 13 year old had the Cheeseburger Dilla ($9.50). It’s a quesadilla with “over ¼ but not quite ½ of a pound of seasoned ground beef, with all the Cheeseburger goodness- lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and mustard”. This was very well done. It was a huge and hearty quesadilla that tasted just like a cheeseburger. The wonderful cheesiness of a Quesadilla made love to the juicy beef of a hamburger and this dish was born. It’s the best of both worlds. If you like cheeseburgers (and who doesn’t?), give it a try. You won’t be sorry.
The rest of us split a salad and a few tacos. We ordered the TacoLu Salad ($7.99). It is mixed salad greens with avocado, tomatoes, jicama, and house roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds). It was a good sized salad; it filled a dinner plate. The greens were very large pieces and it was difficult to get a bite with a little bit of everything on it. Even when I did manage to a get a bite of variety, it seemed to be missing something. This salad wasn’t bad but it could use a little something extra.
Okay, now let’s talk taco! One of the things we love at TacoLu is they have great taco specials. The first taco we tried was a special-The mahi fish taco. TacoLu does a really solid job with fish tacos. The flavors worked well together. Nicely seasoned grilled fish was topped with the perfect creamy, spicy sauce. If you are a fish taco fan, a couple of these would be a satisfying meal. From time to time they offer a swordfish taco that I’m madly in love with. If you’re a swordfish fan it ought to be a crime to come to TacoLu and not order it when it’s offered.
Next up was the scallop taco from the specials menu. It had 3 or 4 big scallops, perfectly seared. They were cooked just right. We loved the fresh flavor and texture was good as well. This was our favorite taco of the day. A simple straightforward item prepared perfectly is sometimes better than the crazy fusion adventures that many of today’s restaurants try to take you on.
Maybe it’s just because I grew up eating too much Taco Bell, but when I go to a taco place I can’t help but want one of my tacos to be a ground beef taco of some sort. This visit was no exception. We ordered Tacolu’s version of the ground beef taco called the Cheeseburger Taco($3)- Ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and mustard. Amazingly it really does taste a bit like a cheeseburger. This is another awesome meets awesome moment where you get the best of both worlds. I love it and most everyone else does too.
We also tried the Carne Royale taco($4.99)- Carne Asada with Brie and Grape Salsa. This one was decent but I didn’t love it. The flavor of the meat was good but didn’t blow me away. I did however enjoy the grape salsa and the brie. They were a nice complement to the steak.
With all the amazing taco offerings that TacoLu has you’ll laugh when I tell you my favorite thing to eat there is corn. Actually, you’ll only laugh if you haven’t tried their Mexican Street Corn ($2.99, Mexican cheese, chipotle crema and lime). People, it’s delicious. It’s like a corn party in a bowl. This blend of crumbly cheese, wonderful chipotle crema and lime is pure deliciousness. If you come to TacoLu you are required to order this dish.
Service: The thing I always marvel at when I visit TacoLu is the service. It’s a really busy place. There are a lot of people and there’s not a lot of room to move. Yet, every waiter I’ve had there has been completely calm and attentive, not affected by the chaos that makes me feel a little dicey (you can avoid the chaos by sitting out back on the deck). The day of our visit was no exception. Even though I respectfully disagree with our waiter’s drink recommendation, he stopped by our table a number of times to check on us and got our order right to a tee. A lot of restaurants struggle with slow service when things get busy, but TacoLu seems to be immune to that issue. You can see everyone there works as a team which means you never go there concerned what the service will be like. Their service is consistently great and their staff is fun to be around.