That someone is chef and owner Todd Gardiner. After a decent stint as executive chef for Z’Tejas, he and his wife Kristin opened Taqueria 27 in September of 2012. Based on their loyal customer base, glowing reviews and the receipt of Salt Lake Magazine’s “Best Discovery” award, it’s safe to say that they’ve had a damn good year.
When dining here, it’s important to remember one simple fact: It’s called a taqueria for a reason. Each of the tacos I tried—and I tried a lot of them—were fantastic little testaments to the fact that homemade corn tortillas are excellent delivery systems for bold and sophisticated flavors. Their Duck Confit Tacos ($6.29 for two, $12.59 for four) are a prime example of what I’m talking about. After being cooked to perfection in its own delicious juices, the duck is shredded and topped with fire-roasted veggies and a smoky chipotle crema. The only downside is that after eating them, you want every taco you ever eat from then on to be these tacos.
Though the Duck Confit Tacos rank very high on my list, I also enjoyed two of their vegetarian options: The Wild Mushroom Tacos ($5.69 for two, $11.29 for four) and the Griddled Veggie Tacos ($5.59 for two, $10.99 for four). The Wild Mushroom Tacos substituted a gorgeous assortment of sautéed mushrooms for meat, and were topped with a chimichurri, gorgonzola cheese and fried leeks. It’s the chefs’ ability to take nontraditional taco ingredients and teach them to play nice with each other that makes this dish so good. I was particularly surprised at how much I liked the fried leeks—they provided the crunchy texture of a thin tortilla chip, along with the rewarding feeling that comes from eating a vegetable. The Griddled Veggie Tacos are just that—a merry gathering of zucchini and squash that have been grilled over an open flame and piled into soft corn tortillas. Great flavor, but the gooey nature of this taco can make it lose its structural integrity fairly quickly—make sure you’ve got plenty of napkins.
In addition to their wide variety of tacos, Taqueria 27 also features a hefty list of different guacamoles, served with tortilla chips. We decided to go for a small order of the Tomatillo Guacamole ($5.69 sm., $10.79 lg.), as the large orders were definitely designed with a group of four or more in mind. There’s nothing quite like a perfectly ripe avocado, but when that flavor mingles with pumpkin seeds and cotija cheese, it becomes something new and exciting. Unlike most restaurant guacamoles, this stuff is incredibly light and fluffy, which makes it the perfect appetizer to get you stoked for a big plate of tacos.
One aspect of this restaurant that encourages repeated visits is their ever-changing list of specials. In addition to the regular menu, diners also have the option of ordering a guacamole of the day, a taco of the day and a fish of the day. During my visits, I never saw the same thing offered as a special twice. The changing options provide diners with a unique opportunity to branch out, which is what I thought I’d do when I saw that they were offering Beef Tongue Tacos as their T27 Taco of the Day ($6.49 for two, $12.99 for four). This is actually quite common in Mexico, but it’s not something that I’ve personally seen very often here on the Wasatch Front. As I wasn’t sure when I’d have the opportunity to try beef tongue again, I went for it. Verdict? Not bad at all. Though it was a bit under-seasoned, it was tender and comforting—like Mom’s pot roast.
In addition to their tacos, Taqueria 27 offers some traditional mole dishes. We tried the Oaxacan Mole with Pork ($12.49), which comes with two sides and a plate of tortillas. The pork was cooked and seasoned well, and their homemade tortillas are amazing, but the mole itself was a bit unbalanced and aggressively smoky.
For dessert, we tried the T27 Donuts ($4.99), which had some pros and cons. They were similar to a churro topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. I really liked that the whipped cream was spiked with cinnamon and sugar, and the donut had a nice mix of crunchiness and chewiness. I thought the chocolate sauce could have used a bit of a kick, but overall it was a nice way to end our meal.
Mexican food lends itself to all sorts of experimentation, and it’s nice to see a place that understands that. Rather than serving up the same enchiladas and refried beans that we’ve come to associate with Mexican food, the folks at Taqueria 27 have created some truly spectacular dishes that you simply can’t find anywhere else.