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Bartaco in 12 South

Tacos, margaritas, and plenty more await at the new Bartaco in 12 South.

Written By:  Erin Byers Murray

Photographers:  Mandy Whitley Photography

Grabbing a casual bite on 12th Avenue South has grown increasingly easier over the last few years—especially if you’re on the hunt for tacos, thanks to the recent addition of Bartaco. An offshoot of the Barteca restaurant group (they are opening another restaurant, Barcelona, in Edgehill Village later this year), the casual mini chain has about 10 locations along the East Coast. With a whitewashed interior, wanderlust-inspiring photography on the walls, woven basket light fixtures, and a sprawling bar at the center, it feels like it might belong on a beach in South America. Meanwhile, the food and drink offerings hail from Mexico—and even further beyond.

You’ll spot influences from Spain and Asia mixed in with Mexican and Peruvian favorites. And while tacos do anchor the menu, there’s another list of dishes that are “Not Tacos,” featuring a good rendition of guacamole, pork tamales, plantains, a hearty pork posole, and mahi-mahi ceviche. There’s even a rotisserie half chicken, which you can partner up with sides like the spicy cucumber salad.

The taco options veer from traditional pork pastor and chicken to pork belly, falafel, and cauliflower. Served on palm-sized corn tortillas, an order of three or four might fill you up. Rice bowls are a sturdy entrée and can be topped with many of the same items you’ll find in the tacos, like sesame rib eye and curry shrimp. Our choice? The portobello rice bowl, which gets a creamy, salty bite from the addition of queso fresco.

Service is upbeat and friendly, but that’s probably because they let you do most of the work. The menu is printed on notecards that sit alongside pencils in a wooden holder on each table—like a scorecard, you tick off the items you want and when you’re ready to hand it to your server, a laminated card can be flashed to grab their attention.

To be expected, the drinks fall in line with that beachy theme—there’s the Bartaco margarita made with Maestro Dobel Diamante and a mojito that starts with Flor de Cana Silver rum. (Instead of filling the shelves with big-name labels, the management has opted to find smaller, more niche producers, like Martin Miller’s Gin and Sombra mezcal.) For something nonalcoholic yet utterly refreshing, the grapefruit ginger agua fresca is a winner.

Sweets make for a solid finish here—there are churros that come with a hot-chocolate-like dipping liquid and a spiced chocolate pudding. But our pick is the key lime pie in a jar, which is densely layered and addictive.

2526 12th Ave. S., 615-269-8226; bartaco.com

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