Since Steph and Chip are generally adept at tag-teaming, they chose to tag-team this review of Swanky’s Taco Shop. I had to go immediately after reading it, albeit without my monkeys, and I really like the food. The inside is very, uh, swanky, but still child friendly. (Ok maybe not the tequila bar.) I looked at the cool round booths and said to Warren, "Look! We could trap the monkeys in between us!" He replied that they'd just climb over the top, but I'd be willing to give it a try.
Swanky’s Taco Shop
6641 Poplar Ave
Chip: After a particularly short and sweaty excursion to the neighborhood playground, we decided to take the clan to Swanky’s. As far as the new (for Memphis, anyway) concept order-Mexican-grub-like-you’re-at-Subway type places, I think this one is the best.
Steph: Friday afternoon. I don’t want to cook something Weight Watchers-approved. I want chips! I know this is a bad idea for Connor (age 3), because all he will eat at a Mexican restaurant is a cheese quesadilla, and he already had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. But I didn’t really care enough to pack any fruit or other healthy side dishes. Instead, I gathered up two lollipops that we could set on the table to stare at him and provide him incentive to eat some of the quesadilla. I put them in the diaper bag with a bottle for Chloe (four months), and we were on our way. After a quick stop at the playground, we were finally at Swanky’s.
C: Hmm, it sure felt more spontaneous than that, but I guess that’s just my oblivious male-ness. As we walked in, Connor was tenuously appeased by being allowed to hold two lollipops. We stood in short line while staring at the oddly short and minimalist menu—pick yer meat: ground sirloin (regula ol’ taco meat), steak, shredded chicken, or shredded pork. Then, pick yer form: tacos, a monstrous burrito, or a salad. Then pick yer toppings, although you don’t need to read any of those since they’re all laid out behind the glass. (If you’ve been to Moe’s, this is the same thing.) Connor, impatient as always, disobeys a direct order NOT to poke the lollipops into his sister’s face. (Chloe was hanging out in her car seat on the floor while we waited in line.)
S: The line was too long for me and Connor- we both had low blood sugar and were pretty cranky. He kept shoving his lollipops in Chloe’s face, and I was trying hard not to snap. Fortunately it was super-loud in there, so no one (not even Connor) noticed when I raised my voice. Chip and I really wanted margaritas, but they are kind of overpriced there so we skipped it. I really wanted a big juicy quesadilla with all the trimmings for myself, but in order to justify the number of chips I was planning on eating, I had to go with a salad. Chicken, dressing on the side. And CHIPS! Lots of chips.
C: I went with tacos this time. You get three, and I picked one each of chicken, pork, and ground sirloin. Don’t let them fool you into going with the same meat for all three! I went with the “medium” sauce, which is a green salsa, a few pinto beans, pico de gallo, cheese, and this fantastic concoction they call “garlic sauce.” It’s green, creamy, and just flat out makes me happy. And yeah, I wanted the margarita, but they’re freaking $6.50, and come in little plastic bathroom cups. No thanks.
S: And don’t forget a child’s cheese quesadilla!
C: And a large Hi-C. How could Connor not be blissfully happy?
S: I don’t know- maybe the same way he manages not to be blissfully happy on every other night of our lives? Anyway, the place is pretty full, so I grab Chloe’s car seat and a tray of food and head to the one open four-top. Connor wants to sit at the bar that lines the wall of the place. The bar stool is pretty high, but I put him there anyway. I can tell it’s not going to work. He can too. “Mommy, come sit by me!” I’ve already got a bottle in Chloe’s mouth (What- did you think I was going to eat my food while it was hot and fresh?), so I can’t a) sit by him or b) get him down from the stool. I jerk my head around, trying to find Chip (who was last seen paying for this lavish feast. Under $25- not bad.). When he shows up, Connor is sitting on his barstool with his head down and bottom lip out. “Deal with him!” I bark. Did I mention that on top of needing to eat, I also have PMS?
C: That’s odd, I really had no idea about the PMS. Ahem. The thing about Swanky’s food is that yeah, it’s assembly-line style, but it’s head-and-shoulders above Moe’s and the like in terms of freshness and flavor. The meats are all seasoned to perfection, and the topping aren’t old, wilted, or funky. And did I mention the garlic sauce? I want to bathe in it.
S: Yeah ya mentioned the garlic sauce. Keep rubbing it in! Fortunately, the seasoning on the chicken is enough to carry the salad. I got the dressing on the side so I wouldn’t eat so much, and ended up dipping my chips in it. Oh, ranch dressing, you are a harsh mistress. I’ll never go four weeks without you again! So one hand is holding Chloe in my lap, the other is trying to get food to my mouth without spilling too much, and my eyes are on Chip as we debate the upcoming election. Suddenly Connor and the people on other side of us gasp. Connor’s 32-oz Hi-C is now in a puddle beside the table. Connor’s face falls as he starts his classic “I just spilled something!” cry. Chip gets up to deal with it as the woman at the table behind me grabs my arm. “I thought the boy had fallen! That’s why I was so upset.” Little did she know, that would have produced a laugh rather than tears. I prop Chloe up on my shoulder to distract the lady and her lady friends with her considerable charms. It works. They ooh and aah as Chip arrives at the table with a new drink and the most efficient drink-clean-up in history takes place beside our table.
C: Yeah, one guy comes out with a squeegee on a big stick, and shoves all the Hi-C out the door and onto the patio. And right behind him comes another guy with a wet mop to obliterate the stickiness. Connor is amazed. We all are. So efficient, so fast! I re-position the successor Hi-C cup so that it is not no easily knocked off the table. Connor has eaten ¼ of his small quesadilla. He may have had more if I hadn’t offered a chip to him, which then reduced the entire remainder of his dinner into chips and lollipops.
S: “He really is my son,” I think as I help him finish the basket of chips, leaving half of my salad (but none of the chicken). I look over at Chloe, happily drooling while sitting in Chip’s lap, and realize that this is her first trip to a restaurant. And she’s been an angel!
C: Wow, I didn’t even realize that until now! Welcome to the world of eating out, Chloe! Anyhoo, what is it with kids in restaurants and the whole staring-at-strangers thing? What is it that possesses a kid to actually turn around in his chair and stare a hole into the people next to him, even if they’re only 3 feet away? What if I did that? Next time we got out to eat, I think I shall. Just turn all the way around and stare at some folks. Would I get a pass too, like Connor does?
S: It’s really funny that you would say that, because I spent most of the meal absolutely gawking at the freak show (she looked a bit like this) sitting behind us but trying not to let it show. In fact, I was wondering what kind of example I was setting for my kids by sitting there staring!
C: Yeah, that lady was seriously scary. Nice lips! Although I didn’t partake in the two lollipops, I was full and satisfied. Tasty fresh Mexican grub at a good price, and the amazing cleanup crew—it’s worth a visit.