When Brett Jones started hatching plans to open a taco stand, he knew it needed to start with the tortillas.
Many places he visited had the fillings right but skimped when it came to the tortilla — in his opinion, the heart and soul of the taco.
At Barracuda, which opened on a burgeoning strip of Tchoupitoulas Street in early April, those tortillas are the highlight of his operation. At breakfast time, soft, doughy flour tortillas bundle earthy chorizo, cheese, eggs, serrano peppers, onions and beans. In a city lacking decent breakfast taco options, things are looking up.
For lunch and dinner, flour and azure corn tortillas serve as the vessels for a short list of daily selections. The farmer’s taco is filled with plump grilled mushrooms, summer squash, onions, cannellini beans, scallions and a shower of cilantro and crunchy pepitas. My favorite way to get this dish is to order it “deluxe,” which adds guacamole, beans and an extra layer of grilled cheese to a taco that gets crisped and lacy at the edges.
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Jones traveled across Mexico and to a string of U.S. cities to find inspiration for his menu, which reads less taco traditionalist and more like an amalgamation of styles and the kitchen’s daily whimsy.
There’s thick, velvety queso — a nod to the Lone Star State’s Tex-Mex cuisine — and Baja-style fried catfish tacos drizzled with crema.
A hearty chicken taco is prepared in the Yucatan fashion. The meat is marinated with achiote and turmeric so that it takes on a burnt sienna tinge and tastes faintly of char and citrus. Some things are fairly straightforward, such as the guacamole and a tomato-heavy salsa that borders on sweet. A few tacos take a simple approach, with little more than diced white onions and a few sprigs of cilantro on top. In that camp is a beef taco, which on one occasion featured grilled short rib, which was slightly tough and could have used more seasoning. A better bet was a smoky pork shoulder taco served al pastor-style, including juicy bits of charred pineapple. The spice level on most dishes is low, but both the crimson salsa macha, made with arbol chilies, and the creamy jalapeno and serrano pepper version ignite anything needing a kick.
The only seating is in a large gravel outdoor space, where multicolored picnic tables and plants lend the spot a casual feel, landing somewhere between a backyard hangout and a Tulum beach bar. Tart margaritas poured from a tap, micheladas and a small selection of cocktails help foster a garden party vibe. Only a portion of the outdoor dining space is covered, meaning business at the restaurant is fairly weather-dependent.
On busy nights — such as Taco Tuesdays — the spot can get slammed, and waits on some dishes can be long. That’s something to keep in mind, but doesn't necessarily detract from an enjoyable meal.
When the margaritas are flowing at Barracuda and a breeze carries the scent of jasmine in the air, it’s hard not to sit back and feel transported to somewhere far away — the Yucatan, the Baja peninsula or just across the Texas border.
"It’s going to be exciting to work in an air-conditioned space and serve people that would never have eaten from a truck or don’t want to stand on the side of a bar to get food."
3984 Tchoupitoulas St., (504) 266-2961; www.eatbarracuda.com
breakfast Sat.-Sun., lunch and dinner Tue.-Sun.
breakfast chorizo taco, farmer’s taco deluxe
short rib taco
tacos, house-made tortillas and draft margaritas highlight Uptown outdoor restaurant
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