Fish tacos with innuendo12/2/2015
Family-style Mexican restaurants in Des Moines seem to be copied from a single template. Can anyone tell the difference between recipes from Monterrey, La Hacienda, El Rodeo, Cinco de Mayo, Mazatlan, etc.? I can’t. Even their menus seem the same. There is a new chain in town that breaks out of this mold in many ways.
Fuzzy’s Tacos is a booming young chain out of Fort Worth, Texas, where its original store began on the TCU campus. They have been franchising for six years now, and a new store in the spectacularly renovated Old Tavern Brewery building is their 89th. Most casual Mexican cafés here favor the suburbs. Fuzzy’s is the first in the downtown area. A short walk from the ballpark, I predict it will become popular with young fans in town for high school tournaments. It borrows a naughty teenaged attitude from Joe’s Crab Shack with similar sexual innuendos. The Urban Dictionary defines “fuzzy taco” as female genitalia. Waitresses wear shirts that say “Eat Me.”
Fuzzy’s kitchen distinguishes itself from other casual Mexican cafés, too. Their tortilla soup — called Baja style — is nothing like others around here. It’s made with beef stock rather than chicken and is filled with five unlikely ingredients — sour cream, black beans, pinto beans, kernels of sweet corn and cilantro. They create one of the best bowls of soup in town and for a mere $3, too. A drunken pig version of the soup added spicy pork and pico de gallo.
Fish tacos were also Baja style. Fish tacos in Des Moines almost always disappoint me. Malo and Dos Rios do them well, but they charge $5 each. They go for $2 at Fuzzy’s, and their tempura version was superb without turning soggy like fried fish too often does in tacos. A grilled version also pleased me. Tacos were available in corn or flour versions and also soft or crispy. The crispy shells were excellent, fried in-house each day. Tempura fish worked better in soft tortillas, grilled in crispy ones. Unlike most local joints, there were almost no condiments on tables, just two hot sauces. A habanero version was more flavorful without being any hotter than the cayenne mash sauce. Sour cream, pico de gallo, salsa verde, jalapenos and red salsa could all be ordered at an extra charge. Chips and salsa were not free, either. Nachos ($4-8) were served in super sizes, with Feta and good garlic sauce adding a unique touch.
Enchiladas ($2) were smothered in a green cheese sauce rather than the ubiquitous red sauce at most places here. Grilled shrimp made a delightful filling. Fuzzy’s huevos rancheros ($6) were also unique to Des Moines, composed of tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and fire-roasted salsa rather than the smooth red sauce one sees most places. Refried beans at Fuzzy’s were much thicker and chewier than the smooth kind one can almost drink. Even fried potatoes were different, cut into half-inch cubes.
Meats disappointed compared to similarly priced ones at Abelardo’s. Both spicy braised pork and braised brisket were dry. However, I ordered them late at night when they likely sat a long time in warming trays. I will try them again at a busy hour. Fish, meats and grilled vegetables can also be applied to salads, quesadillas, burritos and tortas.
Side dishes were done with care. Both the vegetarian cilantro lime rice and the chicken based Mix-Mex rice were quite good. Vegetarian black beans and non-vegetarian borracho beans were better than the refried ones. Fuzzy’s has a limited bar with draft beers, some whiskey and tequila.
Side Dishes: A new Jimmy John’s and Guru BBQ also opened in the former Old Tavern Brewery building… David Baruthio’s Prime Land & Sea debuted last week… Dos Rios closed last week for about four months of renovations. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.
300 MLK Blvd., 280-3898 (also in Ankeny)
Mon. – Thurs., 6 a.m. – 11 p.m., Fri., 6 a.m. – 2 a.m., Sat., 7 a.m. – 2 a.m., Sun., 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.