Salsa bar, corn dish among highlights at Taco Y Taco

Both of Taco Y Taco Mexican Eatery’s Las Vegas Valley locations have more lines to wait in than the DMV, but at least the payoff is a distinctive meal and one of the region’s best salsa bars.

Those lines often confuse first-time diners at the eatery’s chic locale off Eastern Avenue in Las Vegas near Henderson, as well as its no-frills cousin off Tropicana Avenue northeast of McCarran International Airport. There are four lines — three for diners seeking different types of meat and one for those seeking chips, seafood burritos, elote (more on that later), white or Spanish rice, or any number of side dishes. So if you’re looking for pork tacos with a side of chips or rice, you’ll end up waiting in two lines. Confused? If you’re a first-timer, you probably will be.

Taco Y Taco’s salsa bar alone is worth the visit, though. An ample supply of free pinto and black beans ensures even the smallest food order can be expanded into a hearty, inexpensive meal, and salsas that range from mild to sweat-inducing allow one to fine-tune every meal’s spice level.

Taco Y Taco’s elote is one of its biggest selling points, as well as one of many menu items inspired by Mexican street food. Some other area Mexican restaurants serve elote — corn coated with a gooey, mayonnaise-based mixture — in a bowl, while Taco Y Taco serves it on the cob. It can serve as an appetizer or main dish, depending partly on whether your definition of a meal automatically includes meat.

The restaurant’s two-story Henderson location has a bright, modern vibe. It employed a DJ on occasion until about three months ago — which could be enjoyable on a Saturday night and considerably less so at, say, noon on a Sunday.

Drawbacks: The chicken can be a bit dry, and at peak times the Henderson location can seem as busy as the DMV. Also, the salsa bar at the Tropicana location generally is less well-kempt than the one in Henderson because the former is up against a wall, while the latter is in the middle of the dining area and can be approached from all sides. The arrangement at the Tropicana location ensures that when people scoop up salsa from containers at the rear of the salsa bar, it often drips onto separate containers of salsa at the front of the bar before reaching their plates. And lefties beware: The salsa ladles are tapered on the left side, meaning they’re much easier to use for right-handed people.

The Henderson location features a small bar area and an impressive collection of beers. There’s also a small outdoor-seating area just beyond the building’s west wall, for those fleeting days in which sitting outside in Southern Nevada is comfortable.

If you’re unfamiliar with Mexican street food, the menu might have you wondering about vampiros and mulas. Vampiros are made with charred tortillas and cheese, and mulas with soft tortillas and cheese. And sesos, which also is on the menu, is cow brains — a handy thing to know before you learn by accident.

View Assistant Editor Brian Sandford can be reached at bsandford@viewnews.com or 702-380-4531.

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