It’s not that no one has done tacos in Kirkwood, even tacos beyond the chains. But no one has gone to the lengths that Club Taco does, spreading options far and wide.
There’s not much room in which to spread – it’s a snug interior, some tables, a bar with stools, a shelf facing the back bar with more stools. The patio, though, facing Kirkwood Road, is pretty roomy, and that helps when the weather is pleasant. It’s casual, of course, order at the counter, drinks are help-yourself except the alcoholic ones, and if you sit at the bar, you can actually have your order taken by the bartender. Food arrives on metal trays and taco racks with disposable utensils. There are also cardboard boats offered, those shallow, rectangular cardboard containers with flared sides, for those who cannot or choose not to manage the tacos manually.
That should give some idea of how generously these guys are stuffed – or, actually, piled. Yes, they’re messy, messier than the average taco, and only part of that is due to the tortillas not being double-layered. But these are not your average tacos. Twenty-two of them, to be precise, and three sides.
The closest to traditional I tried was the tinga, the shredded chicken that’s just a little spicy. It was extremely juicy, and generously served, the only one I had that seriously benefited from the house salsa, which is roasted tomatoes and tomatillos along with chiles. It’s piquant, not killer-hot, but the acidity in it from the tomatillos makes it more alive. Some of the taco names are, well, tongue in cheek, like the Lake of the Ozarks, which is cod, slaw, avocado and pumpkin seeds with a cumin-laced sour cream sauce, and some cilantro. (That's it on the left, above.) There’s a lot going on with that in terms of textures and flavors, not the standard fish taco, tangy-crunchy-creamy simultaneously. Surely the cod didn’t come from mid-Missouri, but it’s a fine piece of work. We’d point out, by the way, that these are one-tortilla tacos, not the two tortillas often seen.
On the red meat side of things, From Our Seoul (above center) holds Korean-style grilled short ribs with house-made kimchi. Boneless thinly sliced cross-cut beef reveled in a sweetly garlicky marinade, although several pieces of gristle showed up uninvited. This is one of the tacos marked as “may contain additional heat”. In this case it may not, as the kimchi was so mild as to be lacking heat and that distinctive funk. Nevertheless, with the green onions chiming in, it was pretty charming. A B.L.T.A., a take on a BLT sandwich (above right), showcased fingers of pork belly fried to crispness, some good tomato, superfluous romaine lettuce and a slice of panko-coated fried avocado, plus, somewhere in there, a little hit of smokiness. (Chipotle pepper?) Here, as with some of the others, the full spectrum of the flavor didn’t arrive until half-way through consumption, as ingredients weren’t always spread out evenly the length of the tortilla, but once the full-flavored pork hits the palate, it’s very clear what you’re scarfing down.
Breakfast tacos, too, although no breakfast hours. The Mexicana starred house-made chorizo, a few potato tots, a little egg that had been fried in a circle so wide that at first glance one thought a crepe was lining the flour tortilla, and some tomato and cheddar. (If you look carefully, you can see it in the photo to the left here.) Again, nicely done, although another one that welcomed the house salsa, not on every table, but can be found near the soda dispenser and utensils. Those tots are also available as a side with cheddar, chiles and a fried egg, by the way. But our choice was roasted corn, still crisp and fresh, mixed with crema, a little cayenne (but not much) and Mexican queso fresco. Absolutely delicious, whether or not the lime is squeezed over it, very rich and charming. It comes with a little wooden fork, charming and far more efficient for this mixture than the ice-cream paddles it’s vaguely reminiscent of. There are black beans, too, but that’s for the next visit
That bar puts out some serious margaritas, including a mango version that charmed. My only edit would be that the rim needs salt, and perhaps a little cayenne mixed in with it, rather than sugar; mango, goodness knows, needs no more sugar.
Food arrives pretty quickly, and at busy times the area is policed often, although technically, one should dump one’s own tray and deposit it. Lots of smiles from the workers. At the moment, they’re staying open late enough to offer half off all dine-in tacos (which go as high as $6) after 10 p.m. every night.
Lunch and dinner daily
Credit cards: Yes