In November, when Chido Taco Lounge was still an idea in construction, its founder Blaine McGowan said he wanted to bring a piece of Dallas’ culinary artistry up north. He wanted to create a place where like-minded foodies could gather, and envisioned a straightforward taco menu with global flavors, rotating specials, and maybe even secret dishes.
Chido Taco Lounge offers craft tacos with quick, fast-casual service for lunch. But it transforms for dinner into a lounge where guests can spend a couple of hours on the patio.
“Dallas has always been Dallas because everyone lives up there,” McGowan said in November. “It’s been harder to create something up north because we didn’t used to have the traffic. But now, there are young entrepreneurs moving here as well as families, married couples that don’t have kids, and empty nesters.”
Those were just some of the people he wanted to feed—that was the community he wanted to build.
Now, Chido Taco Lounge is newly open in Frisco, taking up the space of a former SmashBurger. It immediately sets itself apart with a double set of doors with gold skull knobs. Open them, and inside the atmosphere is intimate, mostly taken up by a bar. Huge neon skull portraits grin down from the black walls. It’s vibey, almost clubby, with limited indoor seating. (The exterior patio offers much more seating and a spring breeze.)
The staff, all wearing the same grinning skull shirts, pass out the simple menu. It's a cool one page, craft and draft cocktails on one side, tacos on the other.
Most people start with a craft cocktail, like a Top Shelf Frozen. The Chula is made for spring days, tequila lightly and freshly tempered with strawberry, lime, and a big basil leaf. Chido also offers unique draft cocktails, like Poción Numero Uno, a mixture of Grey Goose Strawberry, watermelon, pineapple, Velvet Falernum, and jalapeño simple syrup served on ice.
With a cocktail in hand, it’s tempting to order the whole menu. But McGowan says that the Tablitas are a must-order. “It’s my favorite thing on the menu,” he lets on. “Hands down.”
Tablitas are beautifully uncomplicated. Translating to ‘little planks,’ these thin-sliced bone-in flanks are grilled fast and hot, left with bold char lines. At first, they’re a little difficult to cut—but that’s the fault of the butter knife. Though it’s easy to overcook a cut of meat this thin, Chido’s kitchen, led by Chef Jerry de la Riva, has it down to a tender, flavorful science. Each bite simmers with smoke and subtle sparks of chili and salt, straightforward and unvarnished. It’s a great place to start.
Chido helpfully divides its taco menu into two parts. One is Tacos Callejeros, street tacos: picadillo, carnitas, barbacoa, or tinga, wrapped in a warm corn tortilla. But while many street tacos are small and compact, that doesn’t seem to be how Chido Taco Lounge does it. A barbacoa taco brims of heavy, buttery chunks of beef cheek with nothing but fresh cilantro and chopped onion, plenty to fill the tortilla, but not so much that you need a fork to eat it.
Taco Chidos is where the flair appears like unexpected Asian influences, twists on the form, and fried avocados on parade. The Thai curry taco offers vegetarians an invigorating dish: yellow curry humming with coconut milk, diced sweet potatoes, chard, tomatoes and green rice. The final touch is just the right amount of pickled fresno chilis to balance it out. The Chillis Relleno taco reimagines the classic dish by frying the avocado and dressing it on a bed of Anaheim pepper chunks, zucchini, and pickled escabeche veggies.
But the true star is the jerk chicken taco, chicken with jerk salsa and pineapple pico. Offhand in November, McGowan mentioned it was among the first dishes that defined the character and vibe of Chido Taco Lounge. Even with its new competition, it remains a standout.
Finally, the dessert menu is simple and compact. Chido offers warm, giving slices of Tres Leches bread pudding with a scoop of Mexican vanilla ice cream—it's actually made with four kinds of milks, not three. The bread pudding is lovely and comforting. Also, on a typical Texas day, there can be no better remedy for the heat than that cloud-light custard, creamy without a trace of ice, and full of the warm aroma of Mexican vanilla.
Chido's menu is eclectic and daring enough that it'll take a few tries to make it through. It was difficult to leave without having tried a Caesar salad I've been repeatedly told is particularly good, to say nothing of Chido Ramen, with a smoked tomato broth. Carne asada fries were, likewise, sadly left for next time.
Chido Taco Lounge straddles the line between a quick lunch spot, and late night lounge, that offers rounds of tapas. It encourages you to order in stages, stretching out the night bite by bite. Enjoy a taco here. Vanilla custard there. Order another draft cocktail, and stay as long as you’d like.
6959 Lebanon Rd. #123, Frisco | chidodfw.com