I did not plan to head out for tacos for lunch today. In fact, I was sitting at my desk trying really hard not to eat the awesome ribs I made yesterday since they were supposed to be for dinner. And as I tried hard NOT to think about the sticky, sweet, chai glaze on those ribs, Eater reminded me that a new taco place opened just down the road. And because the owner hails from Austin, this taco place sells MIGAS! I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can say that word without yelling it. That’s how exciting it is that someone was smart enough to bring them to Denver. And so I headed down the street to Moontower Tacos (they’re so close!) to see what other taco fare they were slingin’.
Just off 6th on Grant, the restaurant occupies what used to be Thai Mango. I know I once had a wrap of some sort there, but it didn’t woo me back and apparently that was the case for many. The name Moontower apparently was influenced by Dazed and Confused in which the kids were partying at the “moon tower” or moonlight tower. If you do not know about these structures, go read about them. Austin is the only place left in the world that has them and they have since been declared landmarks. The name adds just the right bit of Austin weirdness to this little eatery.
A ‘fast casual’ restaurant, you approach a giant menu board, order from the counter and take your number with you. While attending CU Boulder, owner Brent had missed the tacos of his home town of Austin and knew he wanted to bring them to Colorado. After spending seven months traveling to all seven continents he decided his place would sell his favorite street foods in the form of tacos. And sure enough, the traditional taco fare rubs shoulders with “Gangnam Style” with pork belly, peanuts and sesame sauce (which I could not bear to order because I can’t say that phrase out loud) to a beer brat with jalapeño ranch to the “Dogfather,” fried Red Bird chicken, bacon and maple syrup wrapped in a waffle. Today was not the day for that, but I will be back Dogfather….I will be back.
Saving the MIGAS! menu for the weekend (they are open 7 days a week) I browsed the taco choices. I settled on the carnitas made with Berkshire pork and green chili, topped with cilantro and queso fresco because, for me, carnitas are a good barometer for a taco place. I also chose the panko crusted shrimp with slaw, picked jalapenos and onions and queso fresco because it comes with a mango jalapeño sauce and I’m a sucker for a sweet sauce. Boylan sodas are available at the soda fountain if you are so inclined, but I settled with just water.
For being open only a week, Moontower was busy and operating efficiently. Brent, himself, was delivering and clearing baskets of food and stopping to ask folks about their meal. From the looks of it, those folks were enjoying their tacos. My order came out fairly quickly and I was asked if I needed any other sauce of which they serve nine. I declined, though, choosing to taste the tacos as they were intended.
The shrimp, having been done in panko, were super crispy and the slightly vinegary slaw, a squeeze of lime and the mango sauce were a nice complement. I was thinking I wanted a bit of hot sauce, but decided to try the carnitas first. I am not used to seeing such glossy, sauced carnitas so I was a little leery at first. Typically the meat is a lot drier and crisped on the edges and shreddy where this looked a bit more chopped. But the pork was tender, flavorful and perfectly seasoned and the slow heat and tang of the sauce and cheese were a good balance. I did miss some crispy bits in there, but overall that was a good taco.
As I was leaving home for Moontower, I noticed a box on the porch. Coincidentally enough it was an entire case of Ghost Scream hot sauce from our friends out in San Clemente, California. My husband is now addicted to the sauce (he even made me a tequila, sake, lime, ginger drink with the stuff) but also offered to bring them to some restaurants in town. Now I am not AT ALL a sales person. But this is some good hot sauce and our friend has ties to Austin himself. So I figured I would bring a bottle with me and if the opportunity presented itself, I would give Moontower a bottle and see if they liked it. So despite my aversion and shyness around trying to sell anybody ANYTHING, I did manage to hand Brent a bottle. He was clearly busy, but accepted it with thanks. So my good deed was done, my belly is full and I am excited to go get me some MIGAS! this weekend.