Restaurant review: HouseTaco – Columbus Underground

The obvious attention-grabbing opening here is something along the lines of “Mexico invaded Ohio State House.” Having said that, we live in strange times, and editorials like this can take unexpected turns. So, instead, let’s start with a less interesting phrase: A new player has taken over the old Milo space inside Ohio State House, called HouseTaco, and is serving up tacos.

You might think the name “HouseTaco” is a clever play on its location in the statea house. no. While the HouseTaco first appeared within the establishment a few months ago, the HouseTaco itself was a ghost taco kitchen long before it became a government asset.

It is an asset. The tacos are good enough to lure people to the Statehouse grounds even outside of the occasional opportunity to tour or protest.

As the name (and the opening introduction) might suggest, the menu features tacos prominently. And while tacos are easy to find in Columbus these days, HouseTaco’s thoughtful approach makes his wares worthy of some attention. They’ve got more things out of the realm of meat, cilantro, and onions.

In fact, you can venture beyond meat land instantly with yam yam taco ($4). It’s based on roasted sweet potatoes and glazed in proprietary agave syrup mixed with chili. The treatment breaks down the sweetness of starchy potatoes with a gentle burn. Collaborating with this base is slaw cut-up slices of course, salsa, pickled onions, spring onions and the expected cilantro. It’s a little special at a price point of less than $5.

yam yam taco

For chicken lovers, out there Carbon Polo ($4). A classic combination of grilled chicken and lettuce is complemented by a good amount of black beans and corn sauce that adds interest to every bite, with some tomatillo sauce (along with spring onions and cilantro).

Polo Carbon Taco

Yam Yam and Pollo Carbon can both be built as a taco (on a corn or flour tortilla) or as a fork with a peeled rice or pepper base. Beyond these options, venture into the land of Crunch Magic Taco ($5.50) It must be mandatory at least once. While all tacos have some personality, Crunch Magic has an extra dose of personality. Choose any protein, and HouseTaco will put it in delicate tortillas lined with crunchy, salty tortilla chips. Works well with shredded beef. Then again, crunchy chips and cheese work with everything, and the combo is loaded with signature accessories with fresh salsa, roasted red peppers, cilantro cream sauce, and more cilantro.

Crunch Magic Taco

For more traditional ones, HouseTaco’s menu includes the Street Taco section, crisp tacos that combine meat with corn tortillas, cilantro, scallions, and onion cubes. For less traditional types, the spring menu contains a Ban Mi Taco ($4.50): A flour tortilla with chicken (or pork or yam), salad, pickled red onions, cucumbers, and cilantro with sesame seeds and a fun mayonnaise to string together. It works way better than it should. (HouseTaco is kicking off its summer menu, so stay tuned for new seasonal specials.)

Ban Mi Taco

As for the finishing touches, the sweet nachos ($7) Not an afterthought. They start with fried tortilla chips, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and topped with a caramel sauce with light seasoning, a proper creamy cheesecake drizzle, and mango and pineapple jam to brighten things up. The playful crunch of sugary chips compatible with different dimensions of sweetness is worthy of repeated investigations.

sweet nachos

Yams, Crunch Magic, Banh Mi, Dessert… are a little different, a lot good, and that makes HouseTaco a true Statehouse attraction. You can dine there, order through a QR code or kiosk, or use the Toast Tab to pick up the curb. Open 7 days a week at 11 am

Follow on Instagram or order HouseTaco here.

All photos by Susan Post

The Crunch Magic and Yum Yam Taco
The Pan Me and Polo Carbon Taco

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