The new Texicali in the NC Music Factory goes beyond being just another taco and margarita bar. Not that it doesn’t have tacos and margaritas – it does and they are great, some of the best in town.
But what makes Texicali stand out is the blend of influences that creates its unique environment.
Alex Myrick, the Charlotte restaurant mogul who also operates Osso in the NC Music Factory and Blue in Uptown, came up with the concept.
“I wanted to create a place with soul and culture built in,” he says. “It’s a mix of personalities: Day of the Dead, hot rods, motorcycles, Texas blues, California surfer music, in my mind it all melts together.
“It’s as if Quentin Tarantino did a restaurant.”
Tarantino references abound – drinks named The Machete and The Tipsy Tarantula, a giant Harley set above the bar like a work of art.
“I consider it a work of art,” Myrick says of the chopper that dominates the center of the restaurant. “It’s got custom metal work and paint, a Buell engine… and it’s fully functional.”
In another corner is a hotrod built by Steve Winslow, owner of Steel Dreams Customs in Monroe. Hand-painted flames like those on the ‘rod grace the panels beneath the bar.
The building, formerly the Saloon, received a massive facelift as it morphed into Texicali. Myrick teamed with designer Monika Nesbach of Design Bar to create an atmosphere which manages to be both bright and fun, despite the strong Day of the Dead vibe and the skeletons and skulls scattered throughout. Even above the restroom doors.
The décor received a real boost when Myrick discovered an artist among his kitchen staff. Chris Davis painted bright, Day of the Dead themed murals on the walls that give an artistic vibe to the room.
Music is in keeping with the Tarantino vibe: John Lee Hooker blues, rockabilly, mariachi, and Cali surfer tunes dominate the sound system. Myrick promises live music including a salsa night.
A wonderful interior (and huge patio) are great to have, but a restaurant relies on its food and drinks for its reputation. And here Texicali doesn’t disappoint. The TXC Signature Margarita, made with Olmeca Altos Planta, Patron Citronage and Cointreau, is quite possibly the best and smoothest margarita around. Certainly the best we’ve had recently.
The menu, designed by collaboration between Executive Chef Gene Briggs and Mexico City native Carlos Rangle, chef de cuisine, is fun, fresh, and (hard to accomplish with a Tex-Mex menu) creative. The dishes we tried were also attractively presented – and delicious to eat. Memorable tastes include melt-in-your-mouth tender pork carnitas and a grilled salmon taco dressed in mango salsa and lime yogurt.
There’s plenty here for vegetarians such as the grilled portabella taco topped with queso fresco and a wonderful guacamole. The TexiCali bowls provide a nice twist, with cilantro-seasoned rice and black beans in a generous size casserole, topped with your choice of roasted veggies, skirt steak, grilled chicken or shrimp skewers.
Some dishes we’ll be back to try: Carne Asada Fries. Texas Brisket Sliders. Dark Chocolate and Chili Brownie. Bacon Guacamole.
As Tarantino writes in Inglourious Basterds: “Sooounds good…”
Texicali Taco & Tequila Bar
900 NC Music Factory Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28206