After a long build-up, Taps & Tacos is finally open near “Brewer’s Row” in Port Moody. I tried it about a month and a half after they opened, so things should’ve settled in nicely by this point.
If you’ve ever driven to Brewer’s Row (home of Moody Ales, Parkside, Yellow Dog, and Twin Sails), you would’ve noticed this corner building at Moody St. and Spring St., just before you drive down the curvy Moody St. overpass.
The shape and layout of the room is a bit weird, but they’ve made it work best they could, I guess. There’s two floors. The seating around the bar is a bit cramped and awkward. There’s a tight twisty part at the right end of the bar that the staff must have a hell of a time maneuvering around whenever they need to get out onto the floor. But there’s huge windows and lots of light, so that makes photos turn out hella Instagrammable 😛
For being located near Brewer’s Row, I’m surprised that they don’t carry any of Port Moody’s darling, Twin Sails. But I do like the focus on all local beer, even if I have to suffer through some shady shadow-brand, contract brewed, brand-first-beer-second Whistler Brewing bullshit. Their list is well-chosen, with a lot of beer styles covered, without any needless overlap.
I was here just for the tacos, since it’s in their name. At first read, the menu seems a little bit too well-thought out, a little bit too “covering all the bases”. It feels a bit too close to what a Rob Feenie-helmed Cactus Club pan-global chain taco place would be. But I gotta give props to the amount of thought they put into this menu. They could’ve easily went the other route and made the most boring menu with stuff like “pulled pork” (snooze), but they’ve “chef-ified” every single item with at least one fancier element. I have harped on about texture in tacos, especially the wonderful tacos at Four Winds where they do pay attention to things like texture. Here, some of the tacos have stuff like crispy yams, crispy tortilla strips, and crispy chicken chicharones to provide interest and texture. (Some sleuthing has revealed that the chef here used to work with the Roaming Dragon food truck. That makes sense cuz Roaming Dragon did their “authentically unauthentic Pan-Asian” food, and that approach has now been applied to tacos.)
The menu lists a “spice level” on a three-point scale. You can sorta ignore that cuz it’s a “white person” scale that’s really only varying degrees of mild. If you really want spicy, there’s a housemade hot sauce.
An important thing: the default here is flour tortillas, which is quite an interesting move for a specialty taco place…(?) The tortillas are made by Santa Rosa in Port Coquitlam. Corn tortillas are available upon request, but I wanted to get a baseline first.
At $6 each, these are definitely on the higher end for tacos. But when they list the farm where the pork comes from, you gotta expect higher prices. (All their meats are supplied by nearby Meat Craft Urban Butchery.) Looking at all the components, I can see why they have to charge so much.
I got two tacos to test the waters:
Yucatan Chicken taco on the left, Coffee Spiced Pork on the right. Two housemade salsas in squeeze bottles.
Coffee Spiced Pork ($6) with Gelderman Farms pork, habanero apple chutney, pickled onion, arugula, and crispy yams on top. They give a lot of meat here. While the pork was juicy (a lot of liquid came out as I bit into the pork), the larger chunks of meat were dry — especially when I got to the middle of the taco. Dry pork sitting in liquid is still dry pork. The sweet habanero apple chutney helped provide some moisture, and for a couple bites it was a really good flavour combo. The crispy yams provided a bit of sweetness and texture. The taco reads well on the menu but didn’t quite hit the mark for me due to the dry pork.
Yucatan Chicken ($6) with local free run chicken, red cabbage slaw, micro greens (where?), crema, and crispy chicken skin. The chicken chicharones were great. Crispy but with that chewiness that fried chicken skins have, plus a small dose of that palate-coating chicken fat essence. However, the actual chicken meat was underseasoned, so the chicken skin was the only thing providing a more assertive flavour. This one fell short.
The two housemade salsas: “Hot” on the left and “Jalapeno Cilantro” on the right. Both salsas improved both tacos.
The Jalapeno Cilantro salsa was a beauty. Really bright and tangy. The Hot held its own too. But I have a love/hate thing with salsas on tacos. If a taco is built to taste good on its own, it *should* taste good on its own and adding another layer of complex flavour on top with salsas would kind of mess things up, no? It’s a bit like automatically adding salt everything you eat without tasting it first. Also, after you’ve realized that maybe the taco could use some salsa, you’ve already finished half the taco. It’s the eternal struggle with tacos… I’m probably overthinking it.
As I mentioned above, the tortillas here are made by Santa Rosa in Port Coquitlam. Flour tortillas are the default for every order. You can get corn tortillas if you ask. The flour tortillas are thin, and it could be argued that they’re a lighter, more neutral vehicle for the taco fillings. I still prefer corn tortillas for tacos in general, but this ok and 90% of people out there don’t give a shit anyways.
So after eating here, I’ve got a big question mark in my head. Do I even like the place? I don’t hate it. But looking back at all my times eating tacos at Four Winds, something at Taps & Tacos doesn’t jive. I just think the crew at Four Winds is just executing at a slightly higher level while retaining a sense of authenticity to the spirit of Mexican food. Taps & Tacos is a bit too pan-global for me.