Food Review: Nashville’s Mas Tacos Por Favor, where I definitely want mas. By Amy

Let me start by saying I have never visited “East Nashville” before. Online, it is toted as the land of hipsters. Very hip, newly cool and modern, and full of said hipsters. After visiting Mas Tacos, I could not agree with this more. Living in Maumelle, Arkansas, I have never really encountered a restaurant branded “hipster”.  I think I fully understand what a true hipster place is like now, and I mean that in the best way possible. Because this place was awesome!

The Neighborhood

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We rented an Airbnb “in the heart of East Nashville” and the reviews were great, especially doting on its location. We were surprised when the neighborhood looked pretty sketchy, smelled a little stinky, and a man riding a bicycle while holding a full on maul/ ax almost clipped our tires. Perhaps we were in the cheapest part of East Nash? I am one to purchase the cheaper airbnb options…I mean,  I need some money for food.  It was fine, though. We were half a mile from Mas Tacas, my #1 East Nash restaurant I wanted to hit up. So, we walked there, safely, I might add.

The Environment

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When we arrived on a Thursday at 7 p.m., there was a line out the door…which I expected- thanks Yelp! The building was old, certainly nothing fancy, had bars on the windows and doors, but was packed with hipsters. While in line, I heard 20-somethings talk on the phone about their jobs as maids, as well as their business investments. This wanted to be a mixed crowd, but they were all too similar. Men dressed in business-casual attire with mustaches and sunglasses seemed to be the most common patrons. #hipsters

After about 20 minutes, we made it inside. Here, you immediately notice that Guy Fieri has been here for a Triple D episode (like I didn’t already know that).

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The menu was posted above the counter where you order.

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In this main room, there was a small selection of tables and chairs.

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In the back, there was another room that the restaurant opens when it gets a little crowded.

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Finally, there was a really cute and cozy covered back deck where most patrons were enjoying their meal.

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The Food

Um….wow. We’ll start with the least impressive and get to the best from there.

Pineapple and Cilantro Agua Fresca- $2

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This was literally water that had fresh pineapple  juice and freshly chopped cilantro added to it. No added sweeteners or anything to make it carbonated. So, it was a little weird. But I greatly appreciated it once my mouth was on fire from eating certain tacos. Would I get it again? No. It really wasn’t good, just a heat killer.

The Tacos!!!!! ($3 each)

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From left to right: Pickled Cactus and Chorizo Taco Fried Tilapia Taco Fried Avacado Taco Spicy Carne Molida Taco

Overall: Each taco was housed in two large corn tortillas. The outer shell charred perfectly. The tacos were fully stuffed, so each taco was about 4-5 bites. Nice! I am used to tiny little “street” tacos for this price that grant me 2 bites each.

The worst: Fried Tilapia taco.
I was most excited about this one. It was deep fried tilapia with shaved cabbage and onion, topped with a “spicy” yogurt dill sauce. First off, this was NOT spicy in the least. Also, this was too dry. I hardly noticed the “spicy” dill sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly, but was bland. I have had many better fish tacos. This surprised me, considering how friggin’ amazing all the other tacos were…come on, Mas Tacos, you got this.
*P.S. The blandness of this taco worked perfectly as a chaser for the other two, very spicy, tacos. So, good decision still?

Not my fav: Fried Avacado taco.
This taco had the exact same toppings as the fried tilapia, but for some reason, the flavors were better. There was definitely more “spicy” dill sauce (still not spicy), and simply more salt. So, the flavors stood out better. However, I HATE the texture of avacado. So, the mushiness was a turn off for me. Drew had to finish this one.

SO good: Pickled Cactus and Chorizo taco.
This was the Thursday special. It came with the same shaved cabbage and onion, fresh cilantro, and queso fresco (Drew ate the cheese for me…thanks, babe). I don’t even recall a sauce on this one, but there had to be a spicy one…no yogurt dill sauce here. While the chorizo was perfect- not too greasy, but still holding that strong, deep, delicious chorizo flavor, and the pickled cactus added a perfect vinegar-y zing to it, there was a heat that hit you a couple seconds after the bite and didn’t leave you for the next hour. But this was not a heat just to be hot, it had a depth of flavor that really added to the experience. It was fun, really. This taco gave meaning to my bland tilapia taco and weird water. Without these two to cool my mouth, I may have not made it.
I would get this taco again. It was one of the best I have ever had with a good combination of differing flavors.

The best: Spicy Carne Molida taco.
Drew and I both agreed that this was the best taco we had ever had. We lovingly offered the other the last bite, as if whoever did not get it loved the other more. I got the last bite. So, Drew’s a better person than me and loves me more than I love him, apparently?
Anyway, this taco included Cuban-style ground beef with spicy onions and salsa and sour cream. This sounds pretty basic, but it was near perfection. The ground beef was exceptionally sweet, yet complex with flavors. Sweet and savory at the same time is a rare find. The spicy salsa gave a perfect kick of heat to this sweetness, without killing my taste buds. The sour cream was barely noticeable, but definitely helped cool any over-heated bites. I will always get this taco!

Cuban Black Beans with Plantains: $5

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Whoa. What. A. Side. Dish. This was my favorite thing here. It was intensely (and spicy) flavored black beans- cooked to perfectly, to create almost a thick stew. These were topped with seared plantains (the sweet kind) and then everything was topped with their “spicy” dill yogurt and picked red onion and cilantro.
The spicy beans with a bite of that deliciously charred and sweet plantain was heavenly. Seriously,  I want this as part of my first meal in heaven. We get to eat in heaven, right?
A bite with all five components was even better. Every ingredient balancing the others to create a perfectly sweet, spicy, and savory dish. The only complaint was there was no crunch or much varying texture. Throw in something crunchy and you’ll have a perfect dish.

Final Thoughts
This place definitely lived up to its expectations. Two of these tacos were the best I have ever had. The black beans and plantains were phenomenal. The prices were very reasonable. I would eat here at least once a week if I lived in Nashville. The cool, yet shabby, atmosphere was totally hipster. But I do have one question: If being hipster means you do not follow the crowd or popular trends, then is eating at Mas Tacos hipster still?

 

 

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