As my tired-of-hearing-about-Corinthian-columns friends know, I'm equally obsessed with architectural details as I am with trying new foods. So when I discovered that there was a new restaurant serving New Mexican food in a well-designed setting, I got a little too excited.  Taco Buddha, UCity's latest fast casual taco spot, boasts "baroque coffered ceilings" and "Hatch chile queso"—I had to try it.

The basics

avocado, chicken, salad
Jenna Thomas

Taco Buddha occupies an unassuming storefront on Pershing Ave., next to Cursed Bikes & Coffee. The restaurant just opened in the beginning of September, and the line is already out the door every time I pass by.

There's limited indoor and outdoor seating, but owner Kurt Eller can be seen continuously weaving through it all, polishing tables in between trips to refill the cucumber-infused water jugs.

The store is open for breakfast, lunch, and sporadic dinner hours. A more stable schedule will be developed in October as the restaurant finds its groove.

The menu

salsa, chips
Jenna Thomas

Although the menu is fairly limited while the restaurant is still getting established, the basics are covered with enough care that I wasn't even searching for more options. For breakfast, try the egg and cheese tacos topped with potato, sausage, or egg. For lunch and dinner, try the sweet-spicy pork, chicken tinga, or veggie sauté. 

I made my friend Jenna try the chicken tinga, which piled pulled chicken under chipotle tomato sauce, cabbage slaw, cotija cheese and red chile cream. She described it as juicy and slightly sweet. The cabbage on top added a refreshing, light twist, and the flour tortilla held together surprisingly well—especially considering the taco was dripping with sauce.

I ordered the veggie sauté, which was composed of a corn tortilla layered with portabella mushrooms, summer squash, onions, peppers, cabbage slaw, a fried avocado slice, and jalapeño sauce. The squash was perfectly cooked, and it had that illusive combination of a buttery texture that also didn't fall apart when I picked it up. The flavor was simple: it was exactly what I wanted out of a solidly-made veggie taco.

#SpoonTip: At the counter where you order, there's a bowl of individually packaged homemade salsas up for grabs—do grab.

The extras

bread, cheese
Jenna Thomas

Although the concept of fried avocado slices sound delicious, I didn't know they could be described as anything but heavy and dense. Somehow, Taco Buddha managed to finagle the richly flavored side dish into a delicacy. The avocado slices could also be added as a lovely addition to the top of the tacos. Either way, I was a fan.

The real star was the green chile queso. Paired with some light, crispy tortilla chips, this queso ended up being my favorite part of the meal. We were initially a bit disappointed as the bowl we were served seemed to be filled with queso but no chiles. The dipping sauce was clearly made well, with real cheese and a decadently thick texture, but the chiles, the star of the dish, were nonexistent.

Then we stirred the queso and layers of Hatch chiles appeared in their full-fledged deliciousness. It was exactly what we needed.

Taco Buddha also has a full bar menu, including frosé and homemade horchata. We chose not to partake, but the other customers were raving about the drinks.

The ambiance

espresso, wine, beer, tea, coffee
Jenna Thomas

The restaurant is a small and slightly cramped place, but with southwestern decor and beautiful ceilings, Taco Buddha manages to own the space.  Providing patio seating and a utensils/napkins/trash/water station outside allows the restaurant to expand into the neighborhood, making the constant flow of patrons manageable.

The staff was friendly and approachable, and the whole experience felt very welcoming and calm despite the fact that they had a continuous stream of customers the entire two hours we were there.

Bottom line: I'd love to go back. And with more menu options coming soon, I can't wait to experience new flavors within the same comfortable vibes.