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Red Star Taco Bar

Putting more tacos in Taco(ma)

Red Star Taco Trio. Photo credit: Dutch Randall

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ANNOUNCER: In April, Seattle's Red Star Taco Bar joined many other successful eateries and opened a location here in Tacoma. Dutch and Jackie took advantage of the now easy commute downtown to give the tacos a tasting.

JACKIE: I will admit, I came skeptical. Tacoma is reaching near peak taco saturation in my humble opinion. But, Red Star has really reinvented the place! There isn't a glimmer of what was once a casual fine dining space, though the kitchen and bar set-up will bring back some Maxwell's memories, if you were a regular. As soon as you cross the threshold, you'll see stairs that lead up to what was a very secret squirrel, private dining area, which is a brilliant way to boost booking potential for special occasions. This addition, plus some, has completely transformed the vibe on first impression.

DUTCH: I didn't actually count, but I'm pretty sure there are as many margarita options here as there are tacos. The large booths, well-polished wood tables and iron accents set a perfect ambiance for drinking margaritas, and with so many to choose from, it will take a few visits to get through them all. On my visit, however, I chose to stick with one. The Roasted Pineapple Margarita combines roasted pineapple infused tequila with the house sour and triple sec. Served over rocks with a salted rim and lime, this is a unique and flavorful cocktail that should not be missed.

JACKIE: So many cocktails. I especially appreciate the plethora of tequila and mezcal-based options that are not your typical margarita go-tos. The Tequila Manhattan is a smooth and sophisticated sipper. On one of my earlier visits, I sipped on a mezcal-based Negroni which was a fun balance of smoky and bitter.

DUTCH: I skipped the pre-taco menu and dove straight into the tacos. I went for the three-taco deal and ordered an assortment of Buffalo Chicken, Carne Asada, and the Blackened Alaska Rockfish. Each taco seemed better than the last! The Buffalo chicken was peppery with lettuce and plenty of bleu cheese, and in taco form, you don't have to wash your hands after every bite. The Carne Asada is seasoned and cooked just right, garnished with Pico and a lime crema staying true to its Mexican roots. The blackened rockfish was the game-changer, though; spicy tender white fish partners well with crisp cabbage and more lime crema. All went great with my margarita!

JACKIE: I, too, dove straight into the tacos. It seems frivolous to fill up on anything else but! I wanted a bit more from the Buffalo Chicken, though, I appreciate generous bleu cheese crumbles and sauce, I was hoping for a buffalo sauce with a bit more character. The Pork Adobo was fun with fresh, sweet kicks from the pineapple keeping things savory with pops of cilantro and onion. The Korean Short Rib was likely my favorite. Tender bits of meat accompanied by a zippy ginger-garlic sauce, cabbage and pineapple had me wanting more. My biggest complaint was on my visits, the rice and bean sides you can add to any plate lacked flavor and texture. They were mediocre at best and did not add much to the experience.

DUTCH: Though the look and feel here is of an adult-only bar, kids are welcome up until 8 p.m. and then 21 and over only until closing. Who says great tacos are only for us adults?

JACKIE: Bonus: they've recently expanded their hours to include the lunch crowd. Because, let's face it, tacos are loved by all.

RED STAR TACO BAR, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., daily, 454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.275.0550, 

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