I’m christening a new type of cuisine: beach-mex. Don’t steal that, it’s being copyrighted. This new term was required to describe the cuisine at TacoLu, a perpetually crowded spot “across the ditch” (I’m learning native Jacksonvillian terms!) on Beach Blvd. TacoLu does not strive for Mexican cuisine purity like my beloved Bone Garden Cantina in Atlanta, but it also doesn’t offer cheese and sauce-covered tex-mex like some other “Mexican” restaurants in Jax. The $3 tacos (plus a few specialty tacos that cost a bit more) are clearly the biggest draw here.
We’ve braved the crowd and rather nightmarish parking situation (somewhat alleviated now by complementary valet) twice now. Our visits were quite spread apart because Mario so disliked his choice for our first meal, the enchilada Suizas (freshly made corn tortillas layered with pulled, roasted chicken, topped with a creamy tomatillo sauce and Monterrey Jack cheese). I liked my meal well enough to work on convincing him to go back to try it again–left to right: the Mahi taco (Blackened fish on a freshly-made corn tortilla with cabbage, fresh mango salsa and chipotle crema), the Taco Rosa (Seared Ahi Tuna with Cucumber-Avocado salsa, chipotle-ponzu sauce and wasabi-soy sauce), and a taco special which I can’t quite remember but which I think is a tuna tartare.
Mario’s enchilada was bland, bland, bland. Bland chicken, bland salsa…that was only two things, but you get the picture. I liked the taco Rosa and the contrast between the cool, fresh tuna and the crunchy cabbage. It was somehow both spicy and refreshing. The mahi taco was a mahi taco, but I happen to love mango salsa and it gets extra points for that.
The thing that finally got Mario to give TacoLu another try was one of their daily specials–a pork belly taco. We headed back across the ditch to check it out, along with their apparently legendary Bangin’ Shrimp Taco (Spicy, Asian-style fried shrimp served with cabbage, lime, chipotle crema on a soft flour tortilla):
From TacoLu’s Facebook page
Apologies for the blurry first photo, one complaint about TacoLu: it is incredibly dark inside in the evening. As you can see though, I reordered the Taco Rosa along with the Bangin’ Shrimp and a crispy pork belly taco with pineapple salsa (Pineapple, roasted habaneros, red onion, lime juice and a little cilantro). This isn’t the thick, fatty (and delicious) pork belly we’re seeing all over the place lately–but that’s ok. It was crisp (but not crunchy like chicharrón) and well seasoned, a nice match for the sweet/spicy pineapple salsa. This, along with the Bangin’ Shrimp taco–crisp, creamy, spicy…we’ve all tasted dishes similar–are what changed Mario’s opinion on the place.
TacoLu’s beach-mex has menu items for both the picky and adventurous. The place is packed on weekend evenings, so expect a wait. Their extensive tequila selection (and very good house sangria) help make the wait more bearable Watch their Facebook or Twitter feed for specials. Although, FYI TacoLu, this shouldn’t be the only way to hear about specials. Each time I’ve gone I’ve had to ask the waitstaff myself about specials instead of them being volunteered. Clientele that isn’t so into so social media may miss out.