Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, September 28, 2005
One of Tunero’s new specials includes a mixed enchilada plate for about a fin.
Tunero Mexican Cuisine
Tortas (nine varieties) $5.29
Huaraches (five varieties) $5.29
Pork green stew $7.99
Combo enchiladas $7.99
Grande Expectations

Tunero is still great for sandwiches and huaraches, but it’s new, Tex-Mex items are blah.


Tunero Mexican Cuisine

1549 N Main St, FW. 817-625-6324. 9am-10pm Sun-Thu, 9am-12am Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

For a restaurant, moving to bigger digs usually means more than just filling additional tables. It also typically means expanding the menu, adding new items alongside signature dishes to please a wider clientele.

The North Side’s Tunero Mexican Cuisine was a very popular — but very small — sandwich and taco joint that decided to move down the block a couple of years ago and into a large corner location in the historic North Main Street Plaza Building. The owners kept the tortas and huaraches (tortilla-style sandwiches) and the tacos that are touted as “authentic” Mexican. But the move also led to an expanded menu with lots of basic Tex-Mex dishes, along with breakfast and longer hours.

What has happened has been kind of odd. This restaurant, with a prime spot in the center of Fort Worth’s Mexican restaurant row, has had a hard time drawing customers. A recent weekday lunch visit found only a few tables occupied; on a Friday night, the place was half empty. To generate some foot traffic, Tunero is now offering cheap lunch specials — $2.99 for a cheese enchilada plate, and eight $5.29 specials daily.

Has Tunero “sold out”? Well, it’s hard to say. The tortas and huaraches are still outstanding, while most of the new, Tex-Mex offerings — enchiladas, quesadillas, tacos — are bland. (A lot of them simply lack the heat and spice you’d expect from an “authentic” Mexican establishment.)

But the real problem is that Tunero seems to have lost some of the little touches that made the old place so great. The salsa that used to be hearty and zesty is now not much more than canned tomato sauce with a few spices. Now, we’re not crying for chunky-style, but some chopped tomatoes, more onions and cilantro, and maybe some roasted ancho chiles might have brought this simple yet key condiment up to par. Even the iced tea wasn’t done right.

The dishes that made Tunero unique are still good enough to warrant a visit. The Torta Pastor — chopped, marinated pork on an eight-inch bolillo with a ton of toppings (beans, onions, lettuce, tomato, and avocado) — was chewy and had a nice blend of hot and cold. The Torta Cubana was also exemplary, a tasty mix of succulent ham, turkey, and beef. At $6.50, the sandwich makes you wonder why anyone in his or her right mind would ever go to Quizno’s or Subway or any other fast-food sandwich shop.

Though there were some bright spots on the Tex-Mex side of the menu, most of it was pretty much what you could find anyplace else. The mushroom and veggie enchiladas were OK, but the toppings — sour cream and a tomatillo-based verde salsa — were boring. The tacos — shredded pork topped with onion and cilantro on a small corn tortilla — weren’t any better. The meat was dry and unseasoned.

One of the bright spots was the pork green stew — the verde sauce had enough chile bite, the pork fell apart at the touch of a fork, and the tortillas were firm enough to scoop stew out of the bowl.

You could say that the problem may not be Tunero itself, but a regular’s expectations. It’s hard for any restaurant to offer so much and be good at every single thing.

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