Tonali: Nuevo Mexican in Durham. A Gem!
Been reading great things about Tonali in the Triangle.dining newsgroup and decided to give it a try yesterday for lunch. It's near the South Square area at 3642 Shannon Road.
A wonderful experience all around. Terrific service. Nice, colorful ambience. And food was great. I wanted the fish tacos, but the chef came out personally to explain that his daily delivery of fish(grouper)didn't meet his standards that morning and suggested shrimp instead. Couldn't have been fresher. 3 tacos on double tortillas which were so chuck full that it easily made 6 tacos for $5.50. A deal! My husband had a wonderful chicken soup with avocado. Deep, rich flavor. Mango drink was great as well -not sugary for once. Prices are more than reasonable. At night, they offer three entrees --at least for now. Menu changes weekly. I hear that the chef used to be sous chef at Four Square -- so this is in a totally different class from the El Rodeo clones and those "authentic" taquerias that are shooting up all over.
The location is a challenge (really out of the way) but this is a place to seek out and support.
Absolutely delicious dinner last night. Little chip and guac amuse, smokey chicken and avocado soup, salad of endives, fried potatoes, and boiled egg, fried grouper tacos, al pastor tacos, and mussels with chorizo. Top notch across the board. Very inspired presentation and much higher quality of ingredients than you'd typically find (including lots of local farms produce and locally produced cheeses). Tamarind drink was also great.
Plain and simple, dude needs to raise his prices. Perhaps not Jibarra prices, but there are plenty of hack mexican places around that charge more than $5.50 for 3 tacos. Sure it's really nice to get such a meal for so little money, but that can't work for him very long.
He also should get at least a permit to sell beer. When we asked, it sounded as if he had no intention of getting one. That would also be a mistake. Besides the fact that it certainly makes a meal a nicer experience, he's again leaving money on the table. Our table of 4 would have likely spent at least another $25 or more if he offered beer.
In a little place like that, every penny counts and I really want to see this guy do well.
I echo all the accolades here for chef Andre. I've been to Tonali twice now, and everything off the menu has been clean tasting, freshly prepared, beautifully presented, and delicious. I have the smokey-flavored soup withe pulled chicken and avocado - there was a ton of it and it was delicious. The chicken tacos, the steak tacos were above and beyond, and each plate comes with its own little treasure trove of unique and pretty tasty things (pickled radish sometimes, a dollop of homemade guacamole, or just a tiny, beautifully dressed salad). I can remember three different kinds of salsas, all wonderful. And the best two dishes, I think, were the mussel and chorizo soup (insanely good - especially the broth - and he even brought bread to dip it in) and the grouper tacos.
My only two disappointments - the tortillas themselves that the tacos came in fell apart easily, making it a challenge to get all the goodies inside. And I agree with Detlef - they need to serve at least beer. Both nights I and my parties would have stayed longer and dabbled more had we had some cerveza to wash it all down with.
Support the place - we're lucky to have it!
Absolutely Incredible experience!! Is the best food that we have in Durham since I don't know how long, everything was delicious and fresh, I think the smoky flavor soup called caldo is the best and the service is awesome, very nice and kind people serving and taking care of you all the time. I agree with the raise of prices is too much quality for so low prices.