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Sep 8, 2011 10:54 AM

Nanataco in Durham open

Thought it could use a new thread for new reviews since the other thread was already pretty long.

We went for lunch to day and thought it was really good, Scott Howell was behind the line. With just 2 people we couldn't sample a whole lot but here's what we had. The chips and salsa, $2.00 (chips and guac. $4.50) but the basket of chips is very generous. The salsa was slightly chunky and fairly mild,good but I like salsa a little hotter. The bottles of Cholula and Valentino on the table will take care of that though.

For the tacos (X3), burritos, quesadillas, and tortas you get a choice of meats. All are $6.00, rice and beans +$1.50
Chili rubbed pork butt
Rotisserie chicken
Garlic slow cooked beef
Braised beef tounge
Grilled veggies

And then there are the "dirty meats" +$2.00
Braised hog jowels
Duck confit
Lamb cheeks
Crispy pork belly

I went with 3 tacos-chicken, duck, and hog jowels. I wanted the crispy pork belly but they didn't have any today. My wife got the 2 tacos (pork and beef) with beans, rice and drink lunch special($6.50). All the fillings were great but the tortillas (corn although you can get flour) really stood out. They looked hand made/pressed and were a little thicker than normal, definitely more sturdy than a lot of corn tortillas but not dried out either, Overall we really liked it even though as die hard crawfish fans are still mourning the loss of The Fish Shack.

The take out menu lists the web address as but it isn't up yet. We were told to follow @nanataco on Twitter for specials and updates.

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  1. I was told that they have a woman making the tortillas in house.

    1. I will offer some first impressions of Nanataco, but at the outset I should acknowledge a few limitations of this review: 1) I'm not a pork eater, which precluded me from eating what are probably some of the tastier items on the menu, and 2) I ordered takeout, and though I only live about 10 minutes away, a good taco has a shelf life of about 7 minutes, maybe less.

      That said, I love the look of this place. There's a really cute patio out front, and the restaurant has large garage doors that open up to the patio. Even when you're sitting inside, on a nice night, you're open to the outside, and I love that. The menu is pretty much what's described above. They also had Ashley Farm chicken mole, which I ordered, as well as beef, duck, and lamb cheek tacos. In the appetizers they listed a chorizo queso fundido. I asked if they could make that without pork, and maybe substitute some lamb cheeks or other meat. They said they would see what they could do, which ended up being queso with black beans and chopped veggies, which isn't what I would have done. The chips were decent, though nothing spectacular, and the salsas good but also unremarkable. The taco meats were all tasty, especially the duck and the lamb. They do serve their tacos in a single slightly thicker tortilla, rather than two thin ones like most (every?) authentic taqueria. This is obviously a matter of preference, but I prefer two thin ones. That said, the tortillas tasted very fresh, and had a nice texture. There was one fatal flaw with the tacos, however: they came topped with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes. I don't know what on earth they are thinking. (What I'm thinking is, "this isn't frickin' Taco Bell"). So I hope they decide to stop doing that, because it's just embarrassing.

      The chicken mole was very good -- tasty, very moist chicken, and the house made mole was rich, slightly spicy and delicious. My only complaint about the chicken is they were super stingy on the mole sauce. It was just sort of painted on the outside like bbq sauce, whereas it should be dripping in a pool of mole.

      There was one last problem, which was the Mexican rice. I was hoping for something nice and a little different, like Arroz con papas, which I love but never find around here. Instead, the tacos and mole were served with a large scoop (as in, the shape of a round scoop) of very undercooked rice. It wasn't al dente, it was actually crunchy.

      There were a lot of positives to the place. Even though I was ordering takeout, and the place was busy, I got really nice service. I ordered a $5 'rita to sip on the patio while I was waiting for my order, and I thoroughly enjoyed that. I really like the vibe of the place.

      Bottom line: Nanataco has potential, but they have some kinks to work out. They should fix their rice, and make it into something that is a cut above typical Mexican rice. And FOR GOD'S SAKE get the shredded lettuce and tomato off those tacos. But I will certainly go back, if for no other reason than to enjoy the drinks, the locally sourced meat and fresh ingredients, and the nice atmosphere.

      10 Replies
      1. re: durhamois

        I noticed on the menu that the tacos came with lettuce (vile weed) and ordered mine without.

        1. re: durhamois

          Laughing at this great review. Was about to ask my usual question about alcoholic beverages, but read on and see that they do have them. I agree that mole should not just be a slight glisten on the meat; that must have been disappointing.
          This may be a really stupid question, but what is "dirty meat"?

          1. re: LulusMom

            I'm guessing it's an amusing way of catorgorizing the meat that "less adventerous" eaters would skip?

          2. re: durhamois

            Only a few things to add. I had the fish tacos, which are available grilled or fried, and they were topped with a fruit-based salsa--no lettuce. The grilled fish was moist and flavorful. Altogether a wonderful experience, although the tortillas lacked the integrity to contain the contents when handled. Plastic utensils were (barely) up to the task. The rice was cooked well for my meal, and the black beans were tasty (although they came with a surprise dollop of sour cream, which I'm allergic to; staff quickly made amends). The refrigerated bar next to the counter had lots of interesting condiments, which all seemed to be prepared in-house--sliced radishes, a somewhat spicy slaw, green and red salsas, a mild salsa, pickled jalapenos, pickled vegetables, etc.

            Others at my table had the grilled vegetable tacos and the pork tacos, both of which I sampled (glutton). The veggies were good, but the pork was outstanding--among the best carnitas I've had east of the Mississippi.

            We'll definitely be back. Nanotacos joins Tonali as one of our Durham favorites.

            Tonali Restaurant
            3642 Shannon Rd Ste 1, Durham, NC 27707

            1. re: dschoonmaker

              I guess I'm looking forward to trying, but I can't fathom why Nana's hit on a taco restaurant as a concept. I like Nana's. But I don't get the slavish (dare I say kitsch) dedication to the taco and the burger in this region. Ditto food trucks. I'm bracing myself for a wave of ssam bars.

              1. re: dschoonmaker

                The wife and I went for a light dinner a couple of evenings ago and they were pretty busy. We had tortilla soup, chips and guacamole, and an order of tacos (which are only available for ordering in increments of three).

                The rundown:

                Tortilla soup = waaaaay to salty, but could have been due to the fact the pot was almost empty when we ordered it. We even poured water into the soup to try and cut the salt but it was still too brine-y.

                Chips and guacamole = Tons of chips. Big portion of guacamole that was just fine.

                Tacos = Got one chile rubbed pork butt, two chicken – without lettuce or tomatoes. Tortillas were definitely made in-house and are really good. Chicken was good; coarsely shredded and a little saucy from being cooked in a tomato sauce. Pork was good and lean, but not terribly flavorful.

                Salsa bar = Had the usual offerings like salsa verde, cilantro, onions, radishes, salsa roja.

                All in all I'm glad to have Nanataco as an option but, as far as taqueria fare goes, its not going to top the nearby La Vaquita or El Buen Sabor. However, they do have some interesting non-taqueria dishes that feature local ingredients like Ashley Farms chicken and Celebrity Goat Cheese. For me, the real draw of this place is going to be the casual outdoor seating, $5.00 margaritas and $2.00 PBRs, with the bonus of having the option to order a serviceable taqueria snack if the mood strikes.

                Anyone have any ideas about why you can’t order tacos in increments less than three? What if I wanted four tacos instead of three? Or just two?

                Long story short: Go check this place out, but don't forget to support the authentic taquerias in your area.

                1. re: ToothTooth

                  I hate to be a nekulturny, but tacos are like barbecue for me. I can't get myself interested in high concept renditions.

                  1. re: Naco

                    For my family, tacos are usually a carry out affair from one or two taco trucks in Carrboro. When we lived in Raleigh, I'd drive to that taqueria on Alston for carry out.

                    We would go to Nanataco or someplace similar if we wanted to go out for tacos and drinks. I see this place as competing with Jibarra or Dos Perros. Authentic Mexican dining is great.

                    Jibarra Restaurant
                    7420 6 Forks Rd, Raleigh, NC 27615

                    Dos Perros
                    200 N Mangum St. Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701

                    1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                      Sorry to disappoint, but Nanataco isn't going to compete with Jibarra or Dos Perros. They're competing against Chubby's.

                      Jibarra Restaurant
                      7420 6 Forks Rd, Raleigh, NC 27615

                      Dos Perros
                      200 N Mangum St. Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701

                      1. re: ToothTooth

                        I think it's in between Dos Perros and Chubby's (haven't been to Jibarra), which is part of its appeal. Casual atmosphere, outside dining options, and the food is pretty good.

                        I don't get the appeal of Dos Perros, though. I've tried it four times and each time found it mediocre. Much better than the Blue Corn Cafe, but that's not saying much. I wanted to like it - the location is good, it's part of the downtown revitalization, etc., but if I can help it, I won't go back. I don't eat meat, so maybe their meat dishes are better.

                        Blue Corn Cafe
                        716 9th St, Durham, NC 27705

                        Dos Perros
                        200 N Mangum St. Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701

            2. Sure as heck wish their website was working, so that I could entice my husband with it. Otherwise me just saying "ok, there is this great sounding place in Durham, sells tacos ... " might not be enough (and yet I married him; what can I say, he's Canadian).

              2 Replies
              1. re: LulusMom

                Most of the menu is in this thread.

                1. re: LBD

                  Yes, but it doesn't have the same impact as "honey, check out the menu here, doesn't it look fantastic?" Again: Canadian. I say this with love (for all you fellow Canadians).

              2. Went once for the food, which many have already reviewed.

                The next day, I went simply to try the Mexican Chocolate shake - which was very nice. The warm cinnamon background to the chocolate and cold ice cream was wonderful after a hot day, working outside.

                1. A group of us tried Nana's Tacos in Durham recently we all loved it. The really big hit was the garlic rubbed beef. The frozen Mojitos and Mexican Chocolate milkshakes were also really good. They have a wonderful salsa and pickled veggie bar so you can personalize your tacos. We liked the casual atmosphere and prices. Want to try the fish taco next time and also the smoked duck tacos. One thing I didn't know---you specifically have to ask for cheese on the tacos and burritos. We all agreed Nana's was one big step above the other Mexican taco joints in Durham.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ifried

                    In my extensive experience eating tacos, the regular toppings for an authentic taco are limited to chopped cilantro and white onion. The customer can add salsa and/or a squeeze of fresh lime when they receive their taco, if desired. Tough cuts like tongue are braised for hours. They are chopped into chunks and then finished on the flat top. Latin Grill, a taco truck often seen in Carrboro makes a mean tongue taco.

                    I am a taco snob though. If you like cheese or guac on your taco, go for it, it will most likely be a special order at most places.

                    Latin Grill
                    528 W Center St, Mebane, NC 27302

                    1. re: ifried

                      I can't imagine how Nanatacos could be considered a "big step above the other Mexican joints in Durham". Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 6 or 7 other taquerias that I'd choose before Nanatacos.

                      I'm not hating on Nanatacos, per se, its just that there are so many other REALLY good taquerias in Durham.

                      1. re: ToothTooth

                        In my opinion, the big selection of delicious, high quality meats (smoked duck, garlic rubbed beef, 4 kinds of local farm raised pork, etc) put this place way above your typical taco stand in Durham like Chubby's or even The Cow No comparison.. Plus, I am not sure anyplace can touch Nana's Taco's milkshakes!! The Peach and the Mexican Chocolate were 2die4.