Rookie restaurateurs are pushovers when it comes to their menus. If you mention you're from the neighborhood and ask for something they might be expected to serve, there's a decent chance you'll soon find it on the specials board. In a bid to be all things to all possible regulars, a local housewife's requested ketchup-and-onion sandwich is suddenly sharing menu space with grandma's time-tested meatball recipe.
Albondigas—meatballs—might be the only typical taco filling not yet available at Nayar Taqueria, a 4-month-old Mexican restaurant that recently took over a weathered Southeast Foster Road space formerly housing a Salvadoran restaurant. When I first stopped in a few months ago, I was happy to discover an excellent taqueria manned by a charming restaurateur. After two more visits, I'm concerned they have too much on their plate—the menu has expanded, leaving the good stuff harder to find and the staff stretched thin.
Nayar's taco menu includes a whopping 16 different fillings, including all the usual suspects along with salmon, machaca, and picadillo of ground beef, raisins, almonds and potatoes.
And that's just the first section of a menu that includes five tortas, tamales, a prawn ceviche, a vegan burrito with chipotle tofu, nopalitos salad, quinoa salad and a burrito stuffed with steak and a chile relleno. It's a massive menu for any restaurant, let alone a new operation manned by one server and one cook, still advertising itself with hand-lettered green poster board.
My two favorite items—on three visits we didn't get through one-fifth of the menu—were both tacos. The chile verde taco ($2.95) had tender cubes of moist pork in a bold, bright-green tomatillo sauce. The chorizo taco ($2.50) is a simple and satisfying preparation of fried sausage crumbles with cilantro and chopped onions. I'm always excited to see machaca, dry and heavily spiced beef from Northern Mexico that's been adopted nationwide as a breakfast meat paired with scrambled eggs. Nayar—named for the state of Nayarit, on the Pacific a few hours south of Mazatlan—gives it the full breakfast treatment, presenting a taco that's more of an omelet wrap.
The eggs also appear on a massive Cubana torta ($9.95), which layers thin cuts of pork loin, bacon, ham, sausage and chorizo on appropriately soft, sweet bread. And the green chile pork from the tacos also comes as a plate ($9.95) with beans, rice and pico de gallo. Other plates weren't as good. The chili relleno ($9.95) came out cooler than preferable, the poblano pepper slightly rubbery and drowned in a bath of red sauce next to twin seas of refried black beans and rice. An overstuffed California-style burrito of shredded chicken in chipotle sauce ($6.25) was a disorganized jumble of bean pockets, rice clumps and sour-cream splats.
Great chips and drinks were welcome support. Nayar's simple guacamole was excellent and a steal at $2.75. We squeezed hard on bottles of creamed red and green salsas on fresh, hot chips. They've got every Mexican beer through Victoria and better-than-average margaritas, but opt for a cocktail called the horchata borracha, a boozy version of the white taqueria standby flavored with rice, almond and sesame.
On my last visit, I chatted with the owner a bit about Mexico and the pre-Columbian fare available in Mexico City, including grasshopper tacos. "You know there's a place on Belmont that has them?" he told me. "I'll have to check that place out," I said. On the way out, I was kicking myself. The last thing Nayar needs is any more menu items.
- Order this: Chile verde taco ($2.95), chorizo taco ($2.50) and machaca taco ($2.95), plus chips and guacamole ($2.75) and a horchata borracha ($5.50).
- Best deal: Chips and guacamole ($2.75).
- Iâll pass: Burritos.
EAT: Nayar Taqueria, 5919 SE Foster Road, 971-888-4897. 11 am-9 pm daily.