It was cause for celebration. I got word from Rob his daughter, Ursula, made the McGill volleyball team for her eighth-grade year. Apparently she’s got quite the vertical leap and powerful arms that can really hammer when needed, physical skills that, when paired with her stellar attitude, should take her far.
This was perfect timing for a review so I moseyed on over to pick up the Holberts to treat them to a downtown meal. It didn’t take long for our conversation to lead toward Rooster’s. I cannot believe I waited this long to review this place, but I usually try to give the new spots some breathing room before I pop in. You may remember Rooster’s Latin American Food was the brainchild of restaurant mainstay Frankie Little.
Little never goes into anything half-cocked, so the research behind this menu was the stuff dreams are made of. Frankie and friend Roy Clark (of Haberdasher fame) headed west in search of the best Latin American food they could find. This “taco tour” of sorts led them from our fair city to the Big Easy followed by a run in Houston, a less-notable stay in San Antonio and a final stop in Austin.
One can only imagine two skinny dudes on vacation chasing their tequila with nothing but tacos, tortas and burritos. Out of this journey the menu was born.
I waited a good while before darkening the doorstep of this downtown eatery across from the Crescent Theater. But after I tasted my first taco I was hooked. It has become a regular stop for me and whatever company I am keeping, and on this night it happened to be the Holbert family.
Rob’s kids are very well-behaved, way more so than their father. Ulysses is pretty good with the yes-sir and no-sir routine, but has the quick wit of the son of a newspaper writer. On this evening he was being ribbed by the adults because he was dressed in basketball attire with school dress shoes, unable to locate his sneakers. Ursula is sweet as can be and always takes other people’s feelings into account. It’s almost impossible to give her a hard time about anything.
We all joked and laughed through the streets of downtown, but when we made it to the restaurant everything became serious. No more messing around. No more funny business. These guys took their eating seriously, so we began our meal with steak nachos ($10).
Now, I know any of you who pay attention to this column are thinking, “Wait a sec, didn’t Andy give up chips for Lent?” Well, I gave up chips in my personal life for Lent. This is my professional life. If you told me I was allergic to oysters but I had to review a seafood restaurant I promise I would show up to the counter with a dozen raw and an Epi-pen. So back off on the chip deal. The other side of that story is that these nachos are good enough to make someone with more fragile willpower break their Lenten promises.
They were soaked with cheese (in a good way) and eventually our greedy hands and utensils forced this cheesy deliciousness through the paper and basket and onto the table. What a waste. I could have licked that paper clean.
Our guest of honor was the first to order and didn’t hesitate when asking for a steak taco ($4.75) with sour cream. Volleyball must really get an appetite going. This dainty little friend of mine took the man-sized taco down in a flash.
Up next was Ulysses. How this young man can eat so much is beyond average comprehension, but I recall my days of being an athlete capable of consuming a horse. His chicken burrito ($9.75) may not have been the size of a horse, but it was almost as big as a miniature horse.
Our well-coiffed sportsman cut a seam down the middle of the burrito and proceeded to pour in the hot sauce. Along with Cholula he sacrificed a small cup of El Gallo del Diablo, the hottest of the house sauces aka rooster of the devil, and turned this open-faced burrito into a wall of fire. Granted, we all shared our dishes but for the most part Ulysses handled that one solo. No leftovers were taken home.
Rob had another steak taco ($4), similar to Ursula’s but without sour cream, and a chicken taco ($3.25). What can you expect? There were no complaints coming from his side of the table.
I’ve had every taco offered in my multiple visits to Rooster’s. I knew it would be a shame if I didn’t write about the veggie taco ($3.25). As much a carnivore as I am, I plead you do not ignore this menu item. Just do it.
A solo taco was nowhere near enough for me. I’d never tried one of their tortas ($9.25), so our waiter, Jimmy, helped me decide what version would be best and steered me toward the chorizo, with ciabatta bread and all the trimmings. Perfect! The greasiness of the sausage was soaked up by the bread and the whole table agreed I’d hit the jackpot.
Everyone was ready to throw in the towel, right? Wrong. Dessert was in order. The other three at my table had ellenJAY Ice Cream Sandwiches ($5.25). If you know Frankie you know he’s fanatical about buying local. These are locally produced ellenJAY cookies hugging Cammie’s Old Dutch Ice Cream. There was a fight over who got the last cookies-and-cream ice cream between a chocolate chocolate chip. Ursula won, of course, and the two boys had chocolate chip with vanilla.
I was treated to a fantastic version of tres leche ($6). This cake was phenomenal, but I did miss the ice cream. Next time I’ll have the Rooster’s sundae.
Here’s the scoop: You order a taco, burrito or torta, pick your meat (or veggies) and choose your sauce. I’m a fan of the cilantro lime, but have had success mixing a bit of all of the sauces. This place is doing it right. Amazing food, cheap price point, good atmosphere, margaritas and beer. What are you waiting for?
Latin American Food
211 Dauphin St.