Saturday, June 18, 2016
Funky Baja's Cantina ~ Keller, Texas
How about another update? Going back to Funky Baja's is like reuniting with an old friend that you had a falling out with. This used to be a regular stop for Mrs. RJG and I. We enjoyed the atmosphere, the drinks, and especially the "$3 Freaking Tacos". They even added craft beers, and for us, it was about the closest place to a "hangout" as it will ever get for us. We often brought friends here too. Then one day... one day... the $3 tacos were dinky! And the bartenders / waitstaff were rude, or nonchalant at best. Visit after visit. What the Helga (as my nieces would say)? To me, that's the worst thing you can do: Chintz on the portion. Better to raise the price if that was necessary. In any case, we ultimately stated "Fine, we're done here", and didn't return for nearly 2 years. But we did recently, and all seemed back to normal again. I don't know if we'll ever be regulars again, but it's back in the rotation.
Food: To us, there are three kinds of taco shops: 1) Fast food ground beef crunchy style; 2) Street tacos / taquerias; and 3) The high end, high quality ingredient taco. 3) is really an extension of 2). Honestly, I love all 3 types. So in that third category, we have a very fast growing cottage industry - especially here in DFW. Fuzzy's has become the standard bearer, while others such as Torchy's and Yucatan Taco Stand established themselves as a higher end alternative. I'd say Funky Baja's has the higher quality taco of a Torchy's (though slightly less priced), with more of a Fuzzy's atmosphere, mixed with a traditional bar. In our initial review, we spoke about the Fishman taco (beer battered), the El Santo (chipotle chicken) and the Blue Demon (spicy pork adobada). Both the fish and especially the chicken were outstanding, whereas the pork was a bit fatty and tough (sigh). It wasn't perfect, but most restaurants have specialties I fall for. Over the years, we tried just about every taco, with Pirata Morgan (steak, bacon, queso fresco) adding to our list of favorites. While the tacos don't really need the extra flavor, I do wish they provided their own really hot habanero sauce like Fuzzy's and Yucatan have (they do, however, provide El Yucateco, if so desired). We also moved to other aspects of the menu, and lately the cheeseburger is satisfying us. And if you get their delicious chips and salsa, you have a full meal right there.
Drink: Full bar, with excellent frozen margaritas, and a healthy selection of craft beers.
Location: It's interesting to note that Funky Baja's took over the old Novrozsky's place, that we wrote about many years ago. And the reason it's interesting, for me at least, is that I felt one of the reasons Novrozsky's closed was it didn't understand the space it was in. Some of that is also timing, as Novrozsky's arrived perhaps a but too early. Keller has grown up since then, as has all of Northeast Tarrant county. Texas has always struggled with its Baptist/temperance/prohibition past, but as time has passed, more and more laws are going down in favor of those who enjoy a nice, legal alcoholic beverage in a public setting. Just for reference, DFW had exactly one microbrewery entering this decade (Fort Worth's excellent Rahr and Sons). Now it seems we get a new brewery once a month! In 2008, Old Town Keller was a rather boring strip with one dilapidated, but cool, BBQ restaurant (now closed) and little else. Now it's filled with restaurants and taverns. These newer places are not the stinky dive taverns my uncle loved to frequent - an unwelcome place filled with ne're-do-wells eyeing everyone with distrust and a cigarette dangling from their mouth. Far from it - in fact, these newer places are filled with women and children. In any case, Funky Baja's is a dark place, that does feel like a sports bar, but is also very welcoming, and definitely for the whole family.
Notes: Funky Baja's is a branch of the ever growing Baja chain of restaurants sprouting all over NE Tarrant, most notably under the monikers Baja Grill or Baja Cantina.
Rating: 4.0. Well, the review above may indicate more of a 3.5, but I'm inclined to give it the extra half point on the premise we'll be back more often, as we had in the past.