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Northpark unwraps Hacienda Tacos today

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Just in time for Christmas, Bryan Neel and Robby Vernon throw open the doors to Hacienda Tacos today in the Shoppes at Northpark, 12086 N May Ave.

The modern taqueria takes over the space previously occupied by a City Bites location. Boasting a full bar, Hacienda offers counter-service for the food and plentiful seating, including a communal table in the mall walkway. When the weather improves, outdoor seating will be added.

Neel is a co-founder of S&B Burger Joint, and Hillbilly’s with Shannon Roper. Neel also founded Electro Lounge, which turned into S&B. Neel and Roper entered into an agreement with local investors in 2012. Neel entered The Coach House Apprenticeship Program to improve his cooking chops in 2014. Last year, he left S&B and Hillbilly’s to develop his own concepts.

Hacienda Tacos is his first foray. To take on the project, Neel partnered with Robby Vernon, a veteran of the local restaurant scene most prominent for the years he’s put in at La Baguette. Vernon is a native of New Mexico, which explains the prominence of green chile on the menu.

Vernon and Neel did much of the build-out on the new space themselves, creating a kitschy, comfortable setting for gourmet tacos, burritos, enchiladas and booze.

Tacos range in price from $3.95 to $8.50 with fillings as simple as ground beef to seared Ahi tuna with smoked pork carnitas, mojo chicken, battered fish and classic Tacos al Pastor in between. Green Chile Stew is the soup sharing the menu with four salads: a Caesar, a taco and a couple of signatures. Hacienda offers burritos filled with cheese, beans or both.

Enchiladas and burritos are also served on dinner plates that include beans and rice. Flan is the signature dessert.

I swung by Thursday for the soft opening for an original Hacienda Taco and an al Pastor. The original is a crispy shell stuffed with spicy ground beef, lettuce, tomato and green onion. This interpretation of the Americanized taco created by Glen Bell for his roadside taco stand that eventually became Taco Bell is the best of its kind not made in my kitchen. Seriously. Finally, someone has taken the gringo version of the taco to the next level. Look forward to many happy returns. The al Pastor is made of smoked pork, cilantro, seared pineapple and feta. This isn’t your south Oklahoma City al Pastor taco, which isn’t a knock. The smoked pork on this version is better than any you’ll find on the south-side. That it’s not slathered in red-chile sauce like standard versions is a testament to how good the pork is. It would be rude to cover it in sauce. A few bits of pineapple and feta with this tasty pork and a couple of squirts of the avocado-tomatillo salsa was all I needed.

Neel and Vernon offer a fleet of salsas I look forward to eating my way through. Hacienda is open for lunch and dinner starting today. Would love to hear what you think of it.

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Dave Cathey

The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene. Read more ›

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