With Spring upon us, Hamilton Ontario is again graced with a bevy of new independently owned restaurants. Mezcal TNT (150 James Street North) is the latest entry. It’s a tiny restaurant looking to make a big splash in the neighborhood. The resto, owned by Chef Manny Ferreira (formerly of the gawdlike Bread Bar), jumps in on the ever expanding Taco trend of the last couple years. A friend made mention she was in need of a replacement for the now closed Poco Loco (RIP Fritos Pie). While they both serve Tacos, the latter is low brow. Mezcal TNT on the other hand is anything but. I stopped in with long time friend Mikki during a soft open/pre-opening night. There was a lot of hype built up and I was fiending to see what the fuss was about.
Before we get to the food, let’s get to the one major gripe I had and move along. It’s with the way the room is laid out. This place is TIGHT! It looks to seat 25 but would more comfortably seat 15 – 20. Sitting on the outside of the table, it was a non stop feeling of being brushed up against by Servers and customers alike. There’s only so many times you can be ghosted before you get irritated. Straight up call “BOOTH” like you would “SHOTGUN” when you walk in with your S/O or friends. Trust when I say you’re winning at that point. Speaking of the servers, I’m not going to rip into anyone because it was day 1 but there were a lot of kinks that needed to be worked out. We legit had a 20 minute wait to get our drinks. Like I said, it’s day 1. If I pop back in, I’d trust they’ll be a well oiled machine by then. Alright let’s get down to the goods.
I’m glad Mikki brought an appetite to match mine as there was a lot to choose from. You ever see a menu and start running it in your head as to whether you could order the whole thing to your face? We opened with an assortment of appetizers that very well could have passed for a meal. We started with Salsa N Chips ($8). This is something I typically would have passed on but was pleased we didn’t. The chips were light and warm. Texture eaters will have a field day with them. They were mad salty though, and will be off putting to some. Personally, I think they still worked. I don’t know if I’d want to eat a couple baskets worth, but this was the right size. Otherwise you’re going to need about 4L of water afterwards. The accompanying Salsa was fresh but I didn’t find much in the way of flavour. I regretted not getting the Guac ($1 more), as a couple next to us said it was delicious. As we were chomping on Chips, we noticed a basket of Fritas ($9) pass by. We took one look at them, then at each other and knew it was going down. I threw in an order of Cuban Cicharones ($12) to complete the salty trifecta. Chips, Fries, and Pork Rinds? Just chop off my foot now. The fries, covered in a generous portion of shredded Pork and then doused in Adobo Sauce were tasty but forgettable. That first visual brought more joy joy than the first bite. The Cicharones on the other hand were an absolute knock out and I want it every day forever. Each fried Pork Rind brought all the happy to my soul They were piping hot, again covered in Adobo and then topped with Feta. Every couple of bites you’d get another flavour punch with sliced Pickles strewn throughout. I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoyed this dish. I haven’t had Cicharones on this level since I was in Mexico a couple years back.
I’ll admit, I was on that heavy breathing tip after apps, but we came to Mezcal TNT for Tacos. My gut suffers for YOU good reader. We each ordered 3 ($15 or separately for $6). MIkki went with Cauliflower, Pollo Tinga (Chicken in Chipotle Sauce), and Baja Fish. According to her, the Tacos went 1/3 on the night. The Chicken was under-seasoned, bodied by toppings as opposed to having the protein stand on its own. The Baja Fish was plump in size but all you could taste was the admittedly light batter. She remarked the Fish would be far better off Blackened. While that wouldn’t be Baja, the Fish did need more to bring out its flavour. The Cauliflower was the clear winner. Both Mikki, and new friends Leslie and Jon agreed they were delicious and not to be looked over by people wanting the meat sweats. I went with the Bistec (Steak), Carnita (Braised Pork), Pork Belly, and a heart monitor. The visual of Tacos can be underwhelming to some, especially when they think what they “should” get at the price point. Pretty sure fast food has ruined people. You shouldn’t be enticed by 99 Tacos, YOU SHOULD BE SCARED! These Tacos lived up to expectations. The protein portions were on point. Two Tacos were delicious but were an absolute mess to eat. Biting into the Braised Pork resulted in a shallow pool of juices splashing back upon my plate. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that mess came within an inch of my clothing on the way down. For something so pretty to look at, it was ugly in execution trying to eat it. The Pork Belly was a subdued mess, grease “only” dripping down my hand. The Bistec was my clear winner. There was copious amounts of Beef. It was tightly made, had no mess, and was finished well with Feta. I could eat 3 of them and be done for the night.
Leslie recommended we finish with the Warm Rice Pudding. We noticed a Chocolate Chili Tarro (a spiced Cake in a jar) but were told it was rather pedestrian and went with her suggestion. I’m not one for Rice Pudding but this easily won me over. The pudding was an ideal texture. The consistency of the rice was perfect. The cold Ice Cream and Caramel drizzle was a fantastic contrast to the warm base. While many will flock to the Chocolate Cake, I’d try the Rice Pudding first for something deliciously different.
Alright; we’re done here.
I want Cicharones now, tomorrow, and forever.
***1/2 (out of 5)