Taquerias are a big thing in Houston, thanks to our vibrant Latin American community. Even the worst ones are pretty good, and the best ones are excellent. They're almost all family run, small operations, and in many cases the ability to speak Spanish is very helpful when you visit. We think it's part of the charm, but some less adventurous souls are put off by this.
For these folks, fast food tacos were created. From Jack in the Box tacos (which we admit to liking) to Taco Bell to Taco Cabana, different approaches to offering tacos to the terminally unadventurous have been tried, with mixed results.
Our biggest complaint: None of these chains offers a truly excellent taco.
Enter Hello Taco. Combine the traditional flavors of a great taqueria, wrap it in a slick package that won't scare gringos away. Offer a variety of tacos with both traditional and Americanized options. Sounds like a good plan. How does it work?
Hello Taco is located where Sawdust Road curves into Grogan's Mill, the busy commercial strip that connects to the south edge of the Woodlands. It's a smart location; lots of lunch business, and easy access to the Woodlands populace without paying Woodlands rents. Located conveniently next to a Baskin-Robbins store, parking is easy. Entering the store, you're met with a bright, clean environment that is so professionally decorated that it could easily be a nationwide franchise.
But it's not. Hello Taco is the brainchild of Armando and Susan Ocampo, a couple with years of experience in the restaurant biz; he in the back of the house, she in the front. Their expertise is evident in the slick presentation and bright colors that make Hello Taco an inviting place to visit.
As with any good taqueria, the food is very fresh, and everything is prepared in-house. A tortilla machine works tirelessly stamping out fresh tortillas from hand rolled balls of masa, and a cook is grilling the meats and veggies.
Unlike some other Americanized taco concepts (like Torchy's and Texas Taco) Hello Taco doesn't feature signature tacos, predesigned with specific ingredients. It's a make-your-own approach, more like Subway or Freebird's. If you don't know what you like, this might be a problem, but the helpful folks behind the counter can certainly suggest some options.
Even though there was a line when we entered, service was brisk. Four different meats are offered on the menu - chicken, pork, and two types of beef. We chose pork and sliced fajita meat, and opted for the traditional chopped onion and cilantro toppings, with a slice of lime on the side.
What came out was a very credible taco - fresh, soft tortilla, nicely seasoned and marinated meat, bright, fresh, crisp veggies. Flavors were bold but not overpowering.
In short, these are damn good tacos.
Word got out quickly. By the time we were leaving, a line stretched to the door as hungry folks queued up. It moved quickly.
We're impressed with Hello Taco. They have a solid concept and are executing well. The only glitch is the lack of signature tacos to make ordering easier for the neophyte, but the excellent tacos more than make up for it.
We'll be back.
Hello Taco | 25114 Grogan's Mill Rd. | Spring, TX 77380 | 832-819-4MEX | hellotaco.com