Our food critic’s name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.
While the LSU area is not part of my usual dining stomping grounds, I ventured out to Modesto Taco Tequila Whiskey on a friend’s recommendation. The new Mexican restaurant lies just south of LSU’s campus on Burbank Drive.
With booze prominent in the name, it’s obvious why the large square bar is front and center inside the restaurant. An extensive collection of whiskey and tequila lines shelves behind the bar, awaiting imbibers. Look up, and you’ll find oak barrels decorating the ceiling above.
But we were there first and foremost for the food, and the Campechana looked appealing for a light appetizer. I wasn’t sure if I’d heard of it before, but I’ll forever be seeking it out in future. Described as a seafood cocktail, it was beyond luscious, with enormous shrimp and the sweetest crab, all mixed with a light, fresh and thin tomato sauce. My only complaint was it disappeared too quickly.
Sopa De Tortilla was not nearly as rich as I would have preferred for this traditional soup. Perhaps an addition of chicken would have made it more satisfying, but I found it lacked umph.
Tacos definitely dominate the menu. It has a wide variety, and serving them singularly allows one to individualize their plate with a multitude of flavors.
Al Pastor is an obvious choice, with bright red and earthy adobo-marinated pork. The meat got a sugary boost from a topping of charred pineapple, and everything was smoothed out with guacamole.
For the Cabo Shrimp, plump and charred grilled shrimp, sweet mango, cabbage, avocado and sour cream all married gorgeously. Though diners have the option of fried shrimp with this taco, I can’t imagine it could be improved by the substitution.
We were intrigued by the Aguacate taco and its centerpiece of fried avocado, but I found the execution lacking. It was accompanied by black beans, pico, cabbage and a chili verde, but I thought it would have tasted much better without the breading and frying of the avocado. The combination of ingredients were more than tasty without the added grease.
Though tacos are the star of the menu, the Tostada deserves attention. The tortilla was fried crisp and puffed, creating interesting texture and crunch. The Tostada was topped with a sprightly picadillo beef and a smear of refried beans. The synthesis was unique and extraordinarily flavorful.
We ordered Black Beans as a side, and it was inky, creamy and mild. Topped with plenty of fresh white onion and salty queso fresco, it was hearty, homey deliciousness.
Next came dessert, and Tres Leches is one of my all-time favorites. At first glance, Modesto’s made-in-house version looked dressed for the part—and it delivered. Spongy with a downy texture, the cake held its shape under the weight of the triple milk soak. A thick top schmear of whipped cream and a pool of coffee caramel beneath it created an irresistible combination.
The Dulce de Leche gelato was supremely creamy with a deep richness not found in ice cream. A dainty caramel sweetness made this ambrosial frozen treat that much more enjoyable.
Tex-Mex establishments are a dime a dozen around here, though there are scatterings of genuine taquerias if you look around. This is not Tex-Mex, nor is it an auténtica taquería. It’s more of a hybrid with much more authentic south-of-the-border flavors and just enough “Tex” choices to make it approachable for those uninitiated with traditional options. A pleasant and cozy outdoor dining space—and, of course, plenty of margarita and cocktail choices—make this place worthy of my taste buds and yours.
THE BASICS: Owner Ozzie Fernandez, the mind behind Izzo’s Illegal Burrito, opened this sit-down Mexican restaurant in September 2020 with the aim of showcasing the dishes he grew up eating on childhood visits to relatives in Mexico. The restaurant’s motto is a nod to that mission, “Mas Mex, less Tex.”
WHAT’S A MUST: Start with the Campechana appetizer, a seafood cocktail of shrimp and crab in a bright and light tomato sauce. Have your pick from the taco menu, but don’t pass up the Al Pastor and the Cabo Shrimp. And for dessert, the restaurant’s take on Tres Leches delivers great texture and sweetness.