The brunch scene in Uptown Dallas will be forever changed with the arrival of TNT Tacos and Tequila, set to open in the Quadrangle this fall. It's the second branch of TNT, the hipper baby brother of Blue Mesa Grill, with an emphasis on tacos; the first is in Austin.
Best-selling tacos include the corn-crusted chicken street taco with pickled onions, and the Buffalo chicken street taco, which has grilled chicken brushed with spicy-hot wings-style sauce.
Owners Liz and Jim Baron devised TNT as a place where their Southwestern food would reach a younger audience.
"It's a synthesis of Blue Mesa food but with a mix-and-match menu," Liz says. "We still make everything from scratch; we still champion local ingredients as we always have. But the way the menu works appeals to a younger group of people."
She describes it as "modular," with elements that can be interchanged. "We do these skewers in options such as seared ahi tuna or rojo shrimp, and you can get them in a taco or on a salad or in a burrito," she says.
Other skewer options include an enjoyably spicy-hot chimichurri beef tenderloin, pulled pork, and a novel vegetarian category featuring lightly battered fried artichoke hearts. Between the artichokes, salads and sides, the vegetarian options are plentiful. Breakfast is served all day, with a selection of breakfast tacos that have proven popular at the Austin location.
One difference between TNT and the Blue Mesa chain is TNT's emphasis on the bar, Baron says.
"We treat the bar as importantly as the food," she says. "We do this at Blue Mesa as well, but I think it gets lost, because the restaurants do so well. But even before the mixology trend, we always took a kitchen approach to our bar with fruit and fresh juices."
The Barons make what they do look easy, but that's because they do it well. Blue Mesa has won many awards for its Southwestern cuisine and its hugely popular brunches; at each of its five branches, there is always a Sunday morning wait.
Dallas isn't the only place that will get a new TNT; they're also opening one in San Antonio. As for Dallas, given their younger market, the Quadrangle seemed like an obvious win.
"We looked at a lot of locations, but Uptown was always on our list," Liz says. "The Quadrangle has gone through many changes over the years, but if you look at what's happening around there, the neighborhood is coming together."