Lone Star Taco Bar is a place I wish I had found out about sooner, especially considering how much of my time in Boston I spend in Allston, where the majority of my friends live. Sure, I had heard whispers and stories, mostly positive, about Deep Ellum’s Texican-Mexican hermanito, but I didn’t realize it was right on the other side of a door, nor that it was such a great little place. Sure, it’s nothing I haven’t seen in this town before – some sort of humble cuisine complexified, that characteristic Boston-chique gastropub vibe, craft beers in specialty glasses chosen to go well with a particular focus on a specific liquor, in this case mezcal and tequila. But the vibe is cool, the drinks are entertaining and the food is very pretty, delicious and ideal for sharing. I went there a few weeks ago with some old friends for what we thought would just be a short Tuesday night dinner catch-up but well, greedy tequila wanted more and it ended up turning into a more eventful, fun evening.
The inspiration for Lone Star came from the early life experiences that the two owners had in Southern California and Texas. The menu is proudly Tex-Mex, and is largely based on open air market of Dallas and Austin, as well as Mexico. The masa harina corn tortillas are obviously made by hand and topped with a variety of meats and veggies all prepared in house and combined in creative ways. A bit small for $4, but the ingredients on these tacos do make up for this most of the time. There are also tostadas, chili con queso, grilled elotes with cojita and chili (which is apparently awesome here), and a very cool brunch menu with things like Moronga (house-made Mexican blood sausage, roasted poblano grits, radish slaw, salsa verde, and a fried egg). Paired with this is a cocktail list composed of margaritas and micheladas (yes, plural…) as well as considerable collection of mezcal/tequila and a craft beer offering which includes draft and bottled.
Lone Star’s wonderful Guacamole is made to order and served in a lava bowl with chips obviously fried fresh only a short time before arriving table-side. Awesome, fresh flavor, extra lime provided for those who need more acidity. The avocados were perfectly ripe, buttery soft and smooth, but the of the guac was left chunky, which is exactly my preference. Our server brought extra chips for the guac when we asked, without hesitation, which is always a plus.
In our first taco, grilled avocado was lain over square chunk of grilled queso, sprinkled with some cojita and topped with a refreshing corn relish and some salsa verde. A good balance of textures, though it could have used a bit more flavor. I’ve actually never had grilled avocado before and, while I did like the bit of smokiness in the charred areas, I felt that this smokiness overpowered that natural soapy sweetness of the avocado and dehydrated it a bit to where it just wasn’t as juicy. The queso underneath was okay, smooth but firm in texture against the more mushy avocado, but it didn’t have too much flavor and I really could’ve used a bit more acidity. Some of this acidity was provided by the snow white cojita cheese sprinkled over the top, but not enough. The corn and salsa were nice but there could have been a bit more heat from the latter.
The Carnitas Pork, on the other hand, was bursting with flavor. House-made confit of pork shoulder torn into juicy, fatty little chunks and served with salsa verde, cilantro and cheese. In this case, the salsa was packed with chopped red onion, which boosted the flavor of the meat with its own fresh zest. The cheese provided just the right amount of acidity in this case. I really liked that the tacos were each served with crunchy wedges of raw radish, as these added an extra hint of spiceness to the tacos. And did I mention how great those grainy little corn tortillas were?
Next up, the House Made Chorizo, with pickled radish, queso fresco and mint. This was by far my favorite. Bumpy little clusters of spicy, sweet chorizo – chewy, juicy and packed with flavor. To offset some of the fattiness of the chorizo, the pickled radishes provided a pungent tang which woke up the palate. This acidity was smoothed by the freshness of the mint which cooled everything down a bit. There could’ve been a tad more chorizo in the stuff, especially for $4, but otherwise this was great.
The Dallas Spicy Beef really wasn’t my favorite. It came with ground beef which was not flavored quite strongly enough to deserve its name, as well as mushrooms and chiles. It was topped with lettuce and cheese. I didn’t really taste the mushrooms at all, their flavor probably just evened out those of the beef to a point where they both kind of just disappeared. It was also served on a fried tortilla so it was technically a tostada, a fact they didn’t mention on the menu and probably should have. The tortilla was greasy and more hard than crunchy. My friend actually remarked that it reminded him a bit too much of Taco Bell. I wouldn’t go quite that far but yeah, I was likewise disappointed.
The Beef Barbacoa, made with mesquite smoked brisket which was sweet and smokey with a bit of heat to it as well. The deep flavors of the beef were contrasted nicely by the acidic, fresh, light pickled red onions. Some smooth avocado crema added an additional fresh sweetness while the salty cojita rounded everything out. Again, fresh radish slices sprinkled about to add some pizazz.
One of my other favorites was the Duck Confit taco with chunks of duck, a bit of crispy skin on the outside and tender, juicy flesh inside. The duck was flavored very well and was freshened up with the thin slices of carrot, cucumber and onion that topped it. This was a special when we went. I would definitely recommend putting it on their on-going menu.
I mentioned before that the night ended up turning from a normal Tuesday dinner into a going out night. Here is the stuff responsible for that. The Terra Chelada was a Michelada, made with beer and Clamato tomato juice over ice with a spiced rim. I was actually pretty excited to see that the place had a section on their drink list just for Micheladas, because I have loved these ever since the first time I had one in Mexico. This was a good one, though a bit watery for my taste.
After our second drink, my friend talked us into getting the Mexican Happy Meal, which is basically a Blanco tequila shot, a pint of Pacifico and a side of sangrita, which is traditionally made from the leftover juices of orange, lime and pomegranite with a bit of chili or hot sauce, but which in this case was a slightly sweet tomato-based thing. Not a bad deal for $10, considering shots are around 7-8 without any chaser (or cleanser, I should say…) and a Pacifico draft is around $4. A fun finish to our meal and one that kept us going, pushing us into the next bar over to continue our night.