TNT Diner

This new Mexican restaurant is priced like a taco truck, but comes with a full cocktail bar

A taco trio with adobada, beans and rice from El Malecon de Tacoma.
A taco trio with adobada, beans and rice from El Malecon de Tacoma.

Tacoma’s newest Mexican restaurant, El Malecon de Tacoma, opened Oct. 27.

Its menu is as casual as a taqueria or a taco truck, but this restaurant comes with a full cocktail menu.

Prices are almost as low as a taco truck, too. Few items are priced more than ten bucks.

It doesn’t have a steering wheel, though. It’s a taqueria built into an expansive restaurant space.

It’s in the same neighborhood as Ben Dew’s Clubhouse Grill, the Cloverleaf Tavern and Loose Wheel.

Here’s a first-bite look. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service during a restaurant’s first month.

The concept: Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tortas and margaritas. If you’re searching for a local reference, it’s similar to Tacos Guaymas on 72nd in East Tacoma. That order-at-the-counter taqueria has a cocktail and beer menu.

The space: It’s as if a taqueria collided with an enormous nightclub. That might be because the building in recent years held nightclubs called The Town and Backstage Bar and Grill.

Dining room: Made over in shades of sunny yellow and terra cotta. Plenty of seating for groups small and large (up to 12 or more).

Style of service: Order at the front counter where the menu is beamed across digital monitors. However, table service was offered after inquiring.

A gordita with shredded beef at El Malecon de Tacoma... Sue Kidd

The menu: The straightforward menu has all the regular taco bases covered. Its best attribute is its affordability.

Find burritos ($6.99 to $8.99), enchiladas ($9.99), quesadillas ($6.19), torta sandwiches ($6.99), tacos ($1.50 each), mulitas ($2.59), tostadas ($2.59) and gorditas ($2.99 each).

Larger plates with rice and beans include chicken fajitas ($8.99), a carnitas platter ($9.99), carne asada ($12.89), taco plate ($8.99), steak ranchero ($10.99), shrimp diabla ($12.99), mojarra frita ($12.99).

The restaurant also serves pozole and menudo ($10.99). Kids menu item is a cheese quesadilla with rice and beans ($5.50).

Meat choices: adobada (spicy pork), asada (steak), birria (shredded beef), carnitas (roasted pork), lengua (beef tongue), pollo (chicken), tripe (stomach).

Salsa bar: Closed on my visit but situated at the foot of the stage.

The bar: A full-service bar with cocktails and beer is near the entrance. Step up into the bar to find high-top tables with barstool seating. Multiple styles of margaritas ($6.50 to $10), plus palomas ($7), micheladas ($6), sangria ($7.50) and bottled Mexican beer. Happy hour daily 3-6 p.m.

adobada 2
Adobada tacos come with rice and beans on a taco platter at El Malecon de Tacoma. Sue Kidd

The eats: Meals begin here with free chips and a red and green salsa.

A trio of adobado tacos were served street-taco style with chopped cilantro and onions on double layered grill-warmed corn tortillas ($8.99).

Carne Asada was grilled skirt steak flavored with a sprinkle of salt and dressed with grilled jalapeno and scallions, plus warm tortillas on the side ($12.89). The taco trio and carne asada were served with thick refried beans and flavorful rice on the side.

A gordita was split open with its bottom layer covered in refried beans, a generous layer of slow-simmered shredded beef and topped with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream ($2.99). A plate-sized verde burrito was drenched in a flood of mild verde sauce and stuffed with a heavy layer of beans, plenty of crispy-edged carnitas and a smidge of rice ($8.99).

El Malecon de Tacoma

Where: 6409 Sixth Ave., Tacoma

Hours: Serving lunch and dinner daily

Contact: 253-332-4733;