If great concepts were personified by guacamole, Taco Max would be able to fill Miami City Hall with mashed avocado mixed with cilantro, onions, and the juice of several thousand limes.
But a great concept is not personified by guacamole. So where does that leave Taco Max?
We'll get to that in a moment.
7931 Biscayne Blvd, Miami; 305-759-7774.
Open Monday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
First let's talk concepts, for this is a very smart one. Take the tortilla big, floppy flour or small, thick, chewy corn. Offer them with more than a dozen fillings, from the usual veggies and fish and roasted pork, to more exotic items like sweetbreads and blood sausage. In a real fit of marketing genius, throw in tacos featuring truffled foie gras and salmon roe and $50 worth of caviar. It's not likely anyone will order them, but they're one hell of a gimmick.
Now make sure you sell everything cheaply two or three bucks per taco, except for the goose liver and caviar, of course. Then shovel in the same fillings, plus refried beans, rice, more rice, cheese, and salsa, into a giant flour tortilla until you have a burrito the size of a piece of carry-on luggage. Stick a few more things on the menu sopas, chilaquiles, nachos, quesadillas and open in an area that could really use a quick, inexpensive, mainly carry-out restaurant. Say, a grim piece of real estate located on Biscayne Boulevard and NE 79th Street that resembles an Iraqi war zone, minus the sand.
So Taco Max has a great concept. Unfortunately it's maximally promising but minimally executed.
"Keeping life fresh to the Max" is the motto on the slickly printed, four-color menu-brochure. But you could have fooled me with the brownish guacamole, black-around-the-edges radish slices, not to mention the chunks of chicken, roast pork, and grilled sirloin that were as dry and shriveled as Dick Cheney's conscience. The trio came topped with plenty of chopped onions and cilantro, a little ramekin of a modestly fiery red chili salsa on the side. The best thing about them were the tortillas.
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The only really successful taco was filled with chunks of achiote-colored snapper and grilled pineapple, needing only a squeeze of lime to brighten its flavors. Chorizo and ground beef burritos fared better than the tacos, mainly because there was enough pico de gallo, sour cream, and refried beans inside to moisten the desiccated meat.
The chips served with the guacamole were good, even if the guacamole had a rather unappetizing hue. A pair of flautas wrapped around creamy potato and cheese were also good, though burned areas on one added a charred taste to the mild-flavored filling. But an extra spoonful of some excellent green chili salsa took care of that.
So where does all of this leave Taco Max?
Well, its owners are nothing if not ambitious: The menu-brochure promises future outlets in South Beach, Calle Ocho, and Dania Beach. And you have to admire the brass cojones of anyone who'd open a business in an area that makes you wish you'd arrived in an armored Humvee. But unless the food drastically improves, city hall stands a better chance of being filled with guacamole than Taco Max does of realizing its great concept.