A new kind of Mexican restaurant has come to Tacoma. Ta Carbon Mexican Asadero, with a specialty in grilled meats, opened Sept. 5 at South 56th and Orchard Streets.
Find the 40-seat restaurant tucked into a strip mall that’s also home to the Thai restaurant, BT Thai, which opened earlier this year.
That strip-mall location is somewhat unexpected for a restaurant with a downright handsome dining room.
High-back chairs offer please-stay-awhile cushy seating at tables stretched along banquettes that bookend the compact dining room. A display of trendy succulent plants hang vertically from the wall. Drop lighting casts a moody feel.
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The restaurant offers table service and has just applied for its liquor permit.
If you want to categorize Ta Carbon, call it a Mexican steakhouse. It emphasizes grilled red meat with the classic carne asada ($23.99) and a robust offering of steak cuts, such as New York ($28.99), ribeye ($28.99), sirloin flap ($25.99) and wagyu zabuton ($32.99).
Those steaks are marinated and rubbed with the flavor profile you’d expect of carne asada, then flame grilled and served with grilled onions, jalapenos and cactus, plus whole pinto beans and salsa.
“Our food at Ta Carbon is authentic as Mexican food gets that isn’t in Mexico City,” said Sofia Trujillo, daughter of co-owners Rosy Trujillo and Moises Villasenor. She’s the restaurant’s manager.
“It starts from the traditional ingredients, especially the nopal,” she explained.
That’s grilled cactus, served as an accompaniment or a main dish in several of Ta Carbon’s dishes.
She also noted Ta Carbon offers something in Tacoma that I haven’t seen since Chevy’s Fresh Mex exited: guacamole prepared tableside ($9.99).
She recommended newcomers try the salsas made fresh daily along with house-made aguas frescas. She recommends the horchata or jamaica (a hibiscus flavored drink).
Some of the menu looks like a taqueria collided with a steakhouse with dressed-up casual street foods, such as street tacos ($12.99), elotes (grilled street corn, $4.99) and torta sandwiches ($10.99), served in a slightly more upscale presentation on wooden boards with elaborate garnishes.
The family is from Jalisco, which is proudly embroidered on their cloth tortilla warmers. I spotted broader regional Mexican dishes.
They serve tlayuda ($24.99), which is a traditional Oaxacan street snack made with a tortilla loaded with beans, grilled meats and vegetables. I spotted another popular Oaxacan street dish on the menu, tacos de chapulines ($15.99). That’s grasshopper tacos for you neophytes.
Also on the menu are dishes in short supply in the region, such as pozole verde ($12.99), roasted corn served street style with sour cream and cheese ($4.99) and roasted bone marrow ($5.99). For carb watches, I spotted tacos served on lettuce wraps ($10.99). Grilled short ribs ($18.99) are also offered, as is pork served al pastor style in a number of dishes.
Although this is a steakhouse, Trujillo emphasized that vegetarians and vegans will find something to like, such as cactus.
“I used to be a vegan, so my parents are used to making dishes for me,” she said. “There are a lot of families who have one or two vegetarians and vegans, and we make them feel welcome, even though it’s a meat-based restaurant. I still want them to come in and try the food.”
This restaurant is a second for the family, although relatives operate several restaurants from here to Everett. Trujillo and Villasenor opened their first Ta Carbon in Everett in October 2017. The Tacoma location is closer to home said Trujillo. They live in Browns Point.
Ta Carbon Mexican Asadero
Where: 5013 S. 56th St., Tacoma
Info: 253-267-0677 or facebook.com/TacarbonTacoma
Hours: Noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday