Last night we finally checked out XO TACO. From the outside, it looks very underwhelming. Its signage is subtle and honestly can be easily missed
Once inside you are greeted by a vibrant atmosphere. The restaurant was not too dark but it was not bright either. The red neon that its sprinkled through out the place really pooped and the industrial styling of the light fixtures and exposed metal beams gives the establishment a relaxed feel to it. The neon lips on the wall may just be the most Instagram and selfie inviting wall I have ever seen in a restaurant.
XO Taco embraces modern technology that is available to the food and hospitality industry. When you go to the hostess stand they take your phone number and text you when your table is ready. What was also great is that when you get the text you have the option to text back that you need more time or that you decided to no longer wait.
When you sit down they hand you the menu and your ordering sheet. We needed someone to explain it to us as we had never been there before. Tacos are ordered individually so basically on the ordering sheet you are listing how many of each taco you want and they are then served family style on a big platter.
We some the nachos appetizer that came with three dips. What came out of the kitchen is not what I expected. When ordering nachos you expect chips like you get in the bag at the grocery store. Oh no, not at XO Taco. On the plater is a stack of flat, basically, hard taco shells which you break to dip. This was a fun aspect as you can decide how big or small you want your chips. They are served with three dips. we decided to go with salsa roja + salsa verde (2 for 1 dip), queso and pico. When it first came to the table it was deceiving. I looked at the queso and thought I had literally gotten gas station nacho cheese. I had never been so happy to be so wrong. The cheese was complex, it was rich and it bit back. The salsa roja was a disappointment, it was flat with not much flavor.
Then we enjoyed some tacos. After some debate we decided to go with 4 tacos, 2 each, and sample most of the meat offerings available. All of the tacos are served on 5 inch corn tortillas made in house, and honestly you can 100% taste that every single aspect of the meal was made in house and was clean & fresh. We had a roasted chicken with onion and cilantro. The chicken was cooked and shredded to perfection without any clumps. The addition of the diced raw onion and fresh cilantro livened the taco and provided a subtle crisp to each bite. We also hadAchiote-braised beef with pineapple-jicama slaw, cilantro. This was my first time having jicama and the freshness of the ingredients elevated this to a level I personally have never had. I enjoyed the hell out of the Citrus-braised pork with chipotle slaw, cilantro. The citrus of the pork and the bite of the chipotle slaw worked well with each other. However, the issue on this taco was the meat to slaw ratio. Too much slaw and now enough pork. She has a Tempura-battered redfish with chipotle slaw, radish, cilantro taco. I would love to tell you how that was, however, I never got a chance to try it.
We ended the meal with fresh churros with Nostalgia Mexican hot chocolate and a mason jar key lime pie. The churros were made to order, they were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They were not overpowered with the cinnamon-sugar. The Mexican hot chocolate dipping sauce was rich and delicate and the perfect compliment to the sweet churros. Like the redfish taco, I cannot speak about the key lime pie however the empty mason jar at the end of the meal tells me it was good.
This was an amazing meal, at a fun establishment. 4.5 out 5 for sure. So why the .5 taken off? The restaurant was a bit cramped. We were a party of two nestled between a 6 top and a 4 top. I felt they were both on top of us. The bar area was small and crowded which was not the best for waiting. However, none of this will detour me from returning in the very near future. Having an awesome taqueria in Syracuse is a breath of fresh air amongst the gastro-pubs, tex-mex and family/sports bar type restaurants.