A restaurant opening in Oak Cliff is about to add a new milestone in the pantheon of food-and-drink pairings. Called Taco Y Vino, it's half wine bar, half taqueria, and one quarter wine shop, that will open in a sweet bungalow at 213 W. 8th St., in March.
T&V comes from two well-known professionals in the food and beverage world: longtime wine professional Jimmy Contreras and chef Sharon Van Meter. Their goal is twofold: to make wine more mainstream and to make tacos with bold flavors.
"I've been in wine industry for 15 years, doing everything from selling to restaurants to working on the import side, and I think wine still has an aura of unapproachability, as something you only do for special occasions," Contreras says.
As an experiment, he hosted a party where guests brought wine that would match with tacos or spicy food. Inspired by the pairings, he hatched the idea to do a place where you could sit down with a glass of wine and a few tacos.
Part of the demystification process is to make sure the price is reasonable. "The idea at Taco Y Vino is that you can enjoy wine at a more affordable price than what you ordinarily get at a restaurant," he says.
The other element is the idea of pairing it with something as fun and casual as tacos. "By suggesting them as a pairing, it puts wine on equal ground with tacos," he says.
Van Meter already oversees the 3015 at Trinity Groves event space; at T&V, she's operating as a culinary supervisor and helping create the menu. There'll be certain staples, but with a regular program of specials and rotating items.
"My 'favorite' thing in life is to dislike Tex-Mex," Van Meter says, partly joking. "I think the flavors are so confused, and no matter what it is, a lot of the food looks and tastes the same. I crave clean flavors. I don't want a soupy mess — I want a good tortilla with fillings whose flavors are pronounced, whether it's pork or beef or chicken."
They'll have all of those categories as well as a "cool vegetarian taco," possibly using jackfruit, a tropical fruit whose shredded texture makes a convincing substitute for meats such as pulled pork.
They're still fine-tuning recipes, but their menu will have about 8 tacos, a few appetizers, some quesadillas, and a couple of desserts. "It's all about my translation on a taco that's refined," she says. "Not expensive but something where you can taste the individual flavors."
They intend to incorporate local farms in the specials, where they'll use the produce to spotlight the farm. "Either way, the specials will be seasonal and topical," she says.
Taco Y Vino will also offer retail sales of wine for those who want to take a bottle home, which is something unique for the neighborhood.
Their wine-by-the-glass program will also include a couple of drinks not yet seen in Dallas, including one that Contreras seriously needs to trademark.
"It's my take on a mimosa — it's called a 'frescamosa,'" he says. "Rather than just orange juice, it combines bubbly with aqua frescas like watermelon. And we're also going to do a cool item that's the No. 1 drink in Spain right now among 21-year-olds. It's a mixture of half Mexican Coke and half wine, usually without ice, called a 'Kalimotxo.'"
This is a real thing. Wiki even has a page dedicated to it.
"I'm inspired to make people feel comfortable with wine," Contreras says. "Pairing tacos with it, that bring two things that people enjoy together."